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Manteca offense finds its groove

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Manteca running back Marquis Miller avoids the arm tackle from Sonora's Irl Barajas while picking up positive yardage in the second half of Friday's big Valley Oak League showdown at Guss Schmiedt ...

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

POSTED October 17, 2009 2:18 a.m.
Marquis Miller had something to prove.

So did quarterback Matt Barber and the rest of the Manteca Buffaloes.
Manteca showed no ill effects from its loss to rival Sierra, taking it to previously undefeated Sonora early and often in a 37-13 shellacking Friday at Guss Schmiedt Field.

Manteca (2-1 Valley Oak League, 4-2 overall) lost to heated rival Sierra 23-15 on Oct. 9. Miller had his worst varsity performance at running back, and Barber completed just two of 12 passes.

On Friday, Miller pounded his way to 160 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries, while Barber completed his first nine passes and ended up 10-of-12 for 156 yards and three scores to no interceptions. Barber’s two incompletions were dropped passes in the third quarter.

“I read the papers, and they were saying how Sierra held me to 26 yards,” Miller said. “I took that as motivation to come out and prove what I got. I’m not a 26-yard back.

“Sonora is a powerful and physical team, but this just shows how physical we are.  This is a confidence booster for next week.”

With Sonora (2-1, 5-1) focusing on Miller, getting Barber warmed up at the start was key.

After both teams traded 5-yard penalties, Barber hooked up with Dewey Uecker for a 55-yard catch-and-run score on the first play from scrimmage.

“If we have balance we’re a very difficult team to stop. That was huge,” Manteca coach Eric Reis said of early score. “Everyone had doubts. Our offense had been doing so well until last week, and Sierra shut us down. To come out and execute at this level is exciting.”

And Manteca wasn’t stopped for the remainder of the half, as it hit pay dirt on all five of its drives. Its last two drives were impressive.

It was typical smash-mouth Buffalo football during a 13-play, 76-yard drive, capped by Miller’s 5-yard run, that ate up 6 minutes, 27 seconds.

After forcing Sonora to punt, Manteca started its final series of the half on its own 7 with 4:57 left.

Manteca went back to the air, and Barber orchestrated the drive masterfully. He completed passes of 14, 17 and 17 yards to set up his 16-yard scoring strike to Anthony May with 36 seconds remaining.

Down 24-7 at halftime, Sonora’s run-heavy, triple-option offense had quite the uphill climb to make.

“That score we got right before the half was really big,” Reis said. “They’re not the kind of team that’s going to come back from 17 down.”

Manteca put it out of reach early in the second half.

Sonora started well on its first second-half drive and forced its way into Buffalo territory, but Manteca linebacker Kiefer Haynes forced a fumble recovered by Jacob Salas to end the threat.

A holding penalty negated a big gain from Miller on the first play of the Buffaloes’ ensuing drive, forcing them to punt. But Bradley Hatfield was nailed on the kick, and the personal foul gave Manteca new life and a new set of downs.

Miller made it hurt on the next play, as he rambled 70 yards through the gut of the Sonora defense and into the end zone to make it 30-7 with 8:06 remaining.

Haynes had a big game on the defensive end, as he recovered two fumbles to go with the one he forced. Defensive lineman Jonny Ruiz also scooped up a fumble, and Manteca forced four turnovers on the night.

Sonora running back Dan Link, the VOL’s leading rusher going into the contest, grinded out 138 yards on 14 touches but was kept out of the end zone. Sonora signal caller Ryan Emerald scored both of the Wildcats’ touchdowns on a 6-yard pass and a 9-yard run.

“I was happy with our physicality tonight, I thought we were really hitting tonight,” Reis said. “That team is 5-0 for a reason. You beat a team that’s 5-0, that’s pretty good, so we just have to build on that next week.”
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