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Slow start, near misses doom Buffs

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Oakdale High defender Brent Leverett grabs a hold of Manteca forward Jose Maravilla's jersey during a big Valley Oak League match at Guss Schmiedt Field Monday.


POSTED October 26, 2010 2:26 a.m.
The enormity of Monday’s Valley Oak League all-important showdown with visiting Oakdale didn’t do the trick.

It took an ejection, of all things, to get Manteca High going.

Playing a man down over the final 26 minutes of the match, the Buffaloes finally took control of a contest riddled with physical play and flaring tempers.

But the late surge of energy was not enough in a 2-1 loss that eliminates Manteca from playoff contention, while Oakdale clinched the third and final Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV spot.

“I was hoping we’d come out a little more fired up, especially for a game like this,” Manteca coach Justin Coenenberg said. “We came out a little sluggish.

Each team held mirroring league records going into the final week of the regular season. Oakdale (8-3-2, 12-6-3 overall) dominated 5-0 the first time it faced Manteca (7-4-2, 10-9-3), but Monday’s game had little semblance to the Sept. 29 meeting.

Having swept Manteca, the Mustangs are playoff bound no matter what happens in Wednesday’s games.

“They played much better this time, especially in the second half,” Oakdale coach Alfredo Quiroga said. “They were very aggressive and had the wind to their backs. They took the game to us. It was a very close game this time.”

It was a game featuring contrasting styles of play with Oakdale’s preference to dictate the pace with ball-control tactics against Manteca’s all-or-nothing counter-attacks.

Oakdale held possession for most of the first half, and Robert Gilbert headed in a perfect cross from Marcos Casillas in the 17th minute to break the ice.

Jose Maravilla and Alex Barragan each missed great looks to tie it for Manteca within the first 10 minutes of the second half.

In the 54th minute the Mustangs doubled their lead when Tony Munoz snuck a shot past keeper Phillip Herrera (11 saves), whose well-played diving attempt to stop it resulted in the ball bouncing off the right post and inching past the goal line.

Seconds later, Manteca’s Ricardo Marin was ejected with a red card.

That was when the Buffaloes decided to fight back.

Three minutes later, Barragan converted a shot from the top of the 18 after a long throw-in from Robbie Geerlof.

“From the get-go of the second half we played 100 percent better,” Goenenberg said. “It was probably one of our better halves of the season — and against a good team.

“When we went a man down it seemed like it lit a little fire under the guys.”

Manteca had three great opportunities after that:

• In the 64th minute, Manuel Nuno fired in a half-volley shot from about 25 yards out that was batted away by Oakdale goalie Scotty  McNeil (7 saves), and defender Cristian Ibarra cleared it away from danger.

• In the 74th minute, Cesar Reyes sailed a point-blank and uncontested header over the crossbar off a throw-in from Geerlof.

• And in the 76th minute, Maravilla, set up by a nice one-man breakaway from defender Oral Nunis, had a clear look at the goal from the right side but was thwarted by a nice diving save from McNeil.

Giovanni Marin attempted the game’s final shot on the final play, but his free kick from 25 yards away was curled to the goalie.

 “That’s pretty much how it’s been all year,” Coenenberg said. “We’ve been a minute away or a touch away from winning some games. It’s kind of frustrating, but I’m proud of how my guys are not giving up.”

Manteca takes on the role of spoiler Wednesday when it caps the season against East Union, which aims to capture its first VOL championship since 1993.
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