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Top-seeded Foresthill wins, moves on to section title game

Wildfires nearly blow huge lead against No. 4 Ripon Christian
By: By Joshua Gutierrez / Special to the Journal
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The top-seeded Foresthill Wildfires suppressed a late-game rally Friday from visiting Ripon Christian, winning 32-26 to advance to the San Joaquin Section Div. VI title game.
 
The game was ultimately decided in the final minute of the contest, when Foresthill running back Wes Archbold secured a first down to expire the clock. Up to that point, the Wildfires found themselves on the wrong end of a comeback.
 
The Wildfires went up 32-0 early in the third quarter after Archbold connected with wide receiver Connor McCann on a 53-yard touchdown. The trick play seemed to signal a definite runaway, but quarterback Danny Vos and the Knights soon made it competitive.
 
On the ensuing Knights’ drive, Vos and Co. drove 74 yards down field, eventually scoring their first points of the game, a 7-yard touchdown
completion to Brandon Dotinga.
 
The Wildfire game plan strayed from the aggressive play calling of the first half and shifted to running as much of the clock out as possible. In three-of- their-next-four drives, Foresthill turned the ball over on downs, an attempt to sustain drives and keep the Knights off the board.
 
Vos answered with scoring drives on two occasions after the turnovers, the final of which cut a once 32-0 lead into a six-point Wildfire advantage with three minutes remaining.
 
The Foresthill coaching staff stayed on the ground and put the ball into Archbold’s hands. The running back carried the ball six times on the final drive, picking up both first downs. The most important of which was a 2-yard gain on a toss play, sealing the victory.
 
The underlining storyline of the game was the impact of extra points.
 
Early in the game, the Wildfires’ staff opted to attempt 2-point conversions, rather than field goal extra points.
 
At the end of the game, the score could have been decidedly closer or even tied if the coaching staff had chose to kick PATs after each score. In a post-game interview, head coach Jim Herlehy spoke about the conversion attempts.
 
“I didn’t even think about it,” said Herlehy, unaware of their importance until after the game. “ I guess they were important.”
 
Instead of crediting the decision to go for 2-points conversions after each scoring play, Herlehy praised his team and the heart they showed in holding onto the win.
 
“ I’m very proud of this team,” Herlehy said. “ That speaks a lot of the young men and young lady on this football team.”
 
Despite the rally from No. 4 Ripon Christian, quarterback Tommy Sawyer managed a huddle that never lost its confidence. After the game, Sawyer spoke about how the team responded to holding off the late-game comeback.
 
“Surprisingly, the mood was very good,” the quarterback said. “We are a true brotherhood, we were just boosting each other up.”
 
As for next week, the Wildfires’ quarterback did not hesitate in responding to their chances for next week’s title game.
 
“I love our chances,” Sawyer said. “We went there last year, we got experience, we need to focus on winning."
 
Second-seeded Brookside Christian romped over Big Valley Christian, 52-0, setting up next Saturday's 1 p.m. title game at the Lodi Grape Bowl. 
 
Foresthill 32 , Ripon Christian 26
 
Knights    0   0    12  12 - 26
Wildfires  0   24   8    8 - 32
 
 
1st Quarter
2nd Quarter
FHW-Thompson 31 Run (Archbold Conversion) 11:07
FHW-O’Brien 18 pass from Sawyer (Archbold Conversion) 5:42
FHW-O’Brien 18 pass from Sawyer (O’Brien Conversion) 2:52
3rd Quarter
FHW-McCann 53 pass from Archbold (Archbold Conversion ) 8:40
RCK-Dotinga 7 pass from Vos (2-pt Fail) 4:55
RCK-Blankers 9 pass from Vos (2-pt Fail) 0:32
4th Quarter
RCK-Dotinga 17 pass from Vos (Kamper Conversion) 6:11
RCK-Blankers 52 pass from Vos (Vos missed PAT) 3:29
 
Individual Leaders
 
Foresthill
 
Tommy Sawyer 5/7 77 Yards 2TD
 
Wes Archbold 28 att 82 yards
 
Matt O’Brien 2 rec 36 yards 2TD
 
Ripon Christian
 
Passing
Danny Vos 19/36 214 yards 4TD
Rushing
Casey Kamper 7 att 34 yards
Receiving
Clayton Blankers 77 yards 2TD