RIPON - Ten times so far this season, the Ripon Christian High football team has taken the field on Friday night. Ten times, the Knights have come home with a win.
There’s been a number of variations of the post-game celebration in those 10 wins. For road games, the party is confined to jamming on the bus ride home. For some, the post-game meal is a heaping helping of McDonald's.
Others, say Drew Van Vliet for instance, have gotten Taco Bell after every win the past two seasons.
The constant through all of it, though, is when the playlist turns to John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads.”
“The whole team sings it,” Michael Kamps said. “It’s pretty fun.”
As the Knights ready themselves for play in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI playoffs, they’re hoping to be able to belt out the 1971 classic at least a few more times.
Van Vliet and Kamps, senior captains for the Knights, were the featured guests on the latest episode of the Best of Preps podcast. The pair have been major forces on their respective sides of the ball, helping Ripon Christian go 10-0 and 7-0 as the champions of the Southern League in order to earn the No. 4 seed and a first-round bye in the playoffs.
The Knights will host No. 12 Waterford, which upset No. 5 Rio Vista a week prior, at 7 p.m. Friday. The winner gets to tangle with the winner of No. 1 Modesto Christian-No. 8 Argonaut in the semifinals, with the championships set for Nov. 24.
The Knights were the runner-up in the Division VII section championship last season, and came back even stronger in a 2018 campaign that coincided with a jump up to Division VI. Van Vliet (81 tackles, nine sacks) and Kamps (1,275 rushing yards, 30 rushing touchdowns) have been right in the thick of Ripon Christian’s success.
According to the captains, after last year, the Knights went back to work. To get as close to a section title as they did, with the talent they were bringing back, they wanted to prepare as well as possible to make another run this year.
It’s played out exactly like they drew it up so far, with Ripon Christian winning games by an average of 37.7 points during its undefeated regular-season run. The extra offseason effort wasn’t necessarily for the regular season, though.
They wanted to be ready for the playoffs, ready for another shot at a title. Starting Friday, the Knights will see if it paid off.
“We obviously wanted a better season. That’s why so many of us were back in the weight room after last season,” Van Vliet said. “We were not satisfied with a loss in the section championship. We didn’t want to do that again.”