Ceres High School’s football team participated in the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs for the first time since 2004 this past week.
The 12th-seeded Bulldogs lost 39-13 to the No. 5 Ripon Indians in the opening-round of the Division-V tournament Friday evening on the road at Stouffer Field.
“Playoffs are a different atmosphere,” Ceres High head coach Clinton Goblirsch said. “We were excited for this opportunity. Obviously, we’re disappointed with the result. We didn’t do enough things to be successful. Give them credit. They played well. They got up early and didn’t make mistakes.”
“I’m upset we didn’t get the outcome we wanted,” Bulldogs’ senior receiver/defensive back Verlis Smith said. “They were a beatable team. They just outplayed just. We didn’t play to the best of our ability.”
Smith caught five passes for 125 yards and two touchdowns during his final game with Ceres High.
Bulldog junior quarterback Landyn Hudson threw for 173 yards with two touchdowns and one interception while completing 9 of 23 pass attempts.
Senior receiver Austin Munguia (28 yards) and junior tight end Lebron Stallworth (20 yards) chipped in with two catches apiece.
Junior running back Tarrell Lee-Gill carried the ball eight times for 25 yards.
He totaled 65 yards on three receptions.
Kahmi Smith’s lone reception resulted in a 6-yard gain.
Ripon senior running back Caleb Johnston gained 100 yards and scored two touchdowns on 18 carries.
Adam Barrera had his first start at quarterback for the Indians, completing six of 12 passes for 84 yards with a 31-yard touchdown pass to Nolan Young (four receptions, 51 yards) and a 19-yard touchdown run to start the night’s scoring. He totaled 42 yards on eight carries.
“We had a good game plan and we executed,” Barrera said.
In his first game on the varsity, freshman Anden Ries made the most of his opportunity, busting loose on his first carry for a 22-yard touchdown run right up the middle, spinning his way out of tacklers along the way. He finished with four carries for 55 yards, all in the fourth quarter.
Ripon’s Ethan Day (nine carries, 65 yards) added a 1-yard touchdown run for the Indians and Jack Manning rounded out the balanced Ripon attack with 56 yards on five carries.
Ceres High relied heavily on its passing attack after falling behind 25-0 in the first half.
Hudson and Verlis Smith combined for scoring plays of 20 and 34 yards during the second half.
“That quarterback is a good quarterback and they have some weapons,” Indians’ coach Chris Musseman said. “They are pretty young, and I think next year they are going to be pretty good.”
The Bulldogs contributed to their own demise by committing three turnovers as the Indians intercepted two passes and recovered one fumble.
“Overall, we could have done way better as a team,” Lee-Gill said.
Ripon (7-4) snapped a two-game losing streak and will face No. 4 Woodland in a quarterfinal matchup this Friday at 7 p.m.
Ceres High (5-6) lost its final four games of the 2021 season following a 5-2 start.
“Every year, students say we suck because of our history,” Lee-Gill said. “People view us a little different now. If we would have beat Ripon, that would have put us in a better position moving forward.”
Ceres High’s football program has made great strides under second-year leader Goblirsch’s guidance.
The Bulldogs advanced to the playoffs for the first time in 16 years this fall.
Ceres High has a combined record of 7-8 over the past two seasons.
The Bulldogs totaled just eight wins from 2016-19, finishing 0-10 in 2019 and 1-9 in 2018.
“I’m excited to see where this program goes,” Verlis Smith said. “They should have a strong team next year. They have a lot of talent.”
“Our goal is to play the best we’re capable of every night regardless of our opponent,” Goblirsch stated.
“We still have progress to make,” Lee-Gill added. “Moving forward, we want to make it a trend for Ceres High to make it to playoffs. We’ll be pretty good next year.”
Manteca Bulletin correspondent Dave Campbell contributed to this report.