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Manteca aims for return to postseason prominence after first-round exits

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Buffalo linemen work on their technique.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

POSTED August 23, 2012 1:47 a.m.

Ground and pound has been the formula for success throughout Eric Reis’ 10 years as Manteca High head football coach.

That hasn’t changed going into the 2012 season, as the Buffaloes hope to change what has become an all too familiar feeling at season’s end. Last year they endured a third consecutive first-round exit in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs, which, to them, cancels out an otherwise successful nine-win season.

“We call it ‘the standard’, and the standard is obviously set very high,” Reis said. “And I know for us we haven’t won anything in the playoffs lately. It’s definitely been something that is eating at us as a coaching staff and as a program.

“We used to do damage in the playoffs and we haven’t done it lately.”

Even with the playoff mishaps, the Buffaloes have steadily pushed defending Valley Oak League champion Oakdale to the brink. Manteca returns the bulk of its starting offensive line, including behemoth juniors Billy Sharmoug (6 foot, 280 pounds) and Issac McClain (6 foot 1, 280 pounds),  putting in place the key ingredient to a football foundation.

Eddie Smith is expected to carry the bulk of the Buffaloes ground game, teaming up with returning quarterback Ryan Fox and East Union transfer Joe Menzel in the backfield. Defensively, Manteca only returns one starting defensive back, but will have a league championship sophomore squad to make selections from.

“Everyone talks about it, but the trenches are definitely where it’s at,” Reis said. “That’s kind of why we’re excited because we have some guys that are very talented up front. When you’re a ground-and-pound team and you have some guys up front that you think can do it it’s exciting.

“Fox did a good job this summer with our passing game and with the addition of Joe Menzel at quarterback it puts two guys back there that can do some unique stuff.”

Manteca has taken steps to intensify an already-challenging schedule, which includes VOL home games against Oakdale and Sierra, with a non-league contest against Los Banos sandwiched in between contests against Division I Edison and Stagg.

“I put Los Banos on our schedule partly because they should be a team that is as good as anybody,” Reis said. “So you know what … If we’re good, let’s see it. That’s why we beefed that up.”

The Buffaloes will open the season in Stockton against Edison before opening the VOL campaign Sept. 21 with a stern road matchup with the Kimball Jaguars. After closing last season being shut out for the first time in a month of Sundays, Manteca likes what its heading into this season with.

“Yeah, I think I’m excited as ever,” Reis said. “This is a special year and we have a good group of kids which makes it exciting. When I started here my goal was to coach here 10 years, and now I’m on to my 11th season. I’m definitely not ready to put the whistle away yet.

“We are definitely up for the challenge this year.”

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