The score shocked just about everybody who saw it two weeks ago.
Ripon Christian 35, Le Grand 21.
It’s the reason the No. 3 seeded Bulldogs (9-2) are hopping on a bus and making a three-hour drive to Garden Valley to face No. 2 Golden Sierra (7-3) in tonight’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division 5 semifinal playoff game.
If the Bulldogs learned anything from their loss to RC, it’s not to overlook any team. Ask any Le Grand player and they’ll tell you Golden Sierra has their full attention.
“We learned not to underestimate anyone,” said linebacker Dustin Slate. “Nobody. After that loss we went back to the basics. We had to rethink what we do.”
The Bulldogs are hoping to turn that loss into a positive. Head coach Rick Martinez felt his team benefitted from not getting a bye in the first round of the playoffs.
Instead, Le Grand had to earn its way to the semifinals with a 50-12 win over Rio Vista. Now, the Bulldogs are one win away from a shot at a third straight section championship.
“The loss to Ripon Christian was kind of like a gut shot,” Martinez said. “But I think it got us going in the right direction. It was our first time losing a league game since 2008, but we got back up and we’re ready to go after it again. With the success we’ve had, there’s the pressure of not wanting to be the team not to win it.”
Everybody has had to do their part to fill the gaps left by players such as Daniel Guizar and Zach Moreno.
“I think we want it bad,” said junior Juan Gomez. “Everyone wants to show we can do it without some of the key guys from last year.”
The Bulldogs will have to get past a Golden Sierra team that will line up offensively with all 11 players close to the line and scrimmage and try to pound the ball on the ground. “Our attitude has been ‘Let’s go get it done,’” Martinez said. “We didn’t mind playing the extra game. The extra practices helped us. “We talk about the season being in three parts: The preseason, league and the playoffs. The next step is the finals. We want to get to the next step.”
No. 5 Buhach at No. 4 Antelope: The Thunder hit the road for the playoffs for the first time since a 2009 first-round matchup with St. Mary’s. Leon Miles and Stefon Gold lead the Thunder ground attack. Miles rushed for 194 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s 59-22 win over McNair.
The Titans picked up their first playoff win ever with last week’s 31-24 win over Rocklin. Antelope is led by running back Jonathan Crippes (1,178 yards and nine touchdowns) and receiver Tyler Winston, who has 49 catches for 724 yards and 11 touchdowns.
No. 5 Los Banos at No. 4 Capital Chr.: The Tigers will lean on a healthy James Sams. The Los Banos junior has 1,505 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns. The Cougars have their own 1,500-yard back in Quinton Kirk.
No. 5 Chowchilla at No. 4 Coalinga: The Redskins will try to contain Horned Toads running back Ryan Vasquez. Chowchilla’s DeVaughn Gaines is coming off a five-touchdown performance last week against Roosevelt.