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Big plays, Oakdale stand haunt Buffs

Back-up QB spearheads valiant comeback attempt

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Big plays, Oakdale stand haunt Buffs

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POSTED October 31, 2009 2:30 a.m.
OAKDALE —The big-play bug once again sank its venomous teeth into Manteca in a heartbreaking 35-23 loss to undefeated Oakdale at The Corral Friday, but the Buffaloes nearly overcame it along with the loss of starting quarterback Matt Barber.

Despite it all, Manteca (3-2, 5-3 overall) was inches away from possibly handing Oakdale its first home loss in Valley Oak League play since 2000 while forcing a four-way tie for first place.

In a game loaded with big plays, the most pivotal was made by the Oakdale defense late in the fourth quarter.

Manteca, down 28-23, marched 61 yards on 12 plays to the Mustang 9-yard line, but Marquis Miller was stopped inches shy of the first-down marker on fourth-and-2 with 5 minutes, 30 seconds remaining.

Oakdale (5-0, 8-0) put it away with Tim House’s 11-yard touchdown run, his third of the contest, which was set up by Blake Raham’s 58-yard jaunt on third-and-5.

“We beat them by a foot,” Oakdale coach Trent Merzon said. “You can say what you want about the final score — it’s irrelevant. We beat them by a foot.”

It was an impressive performance for the underdog Buffaloes, who yielded the game’s first 14 points but battled back to take a 23-21 lead late in the third quarter on Robert Ladiges’ 5-yard touchdown scamper.

Leading the charge was junior quarterback Matt Burrows (13-of-19, 185 yards, passing TD, rushing TD), who replaced Barber late in the first quarter.

Barber was knocked unconscious on a fourth-and-4 pass attempt that sailed wide of his target, Jacob Salas, and was taken to nearby Oak Valley Hospital.

 “I wanted this game so bad, especially for Barber,” Burrows said. “There were some things I could have done better, but I’m very proud of the way we played as a whole.”

Manteca rallied around both quarterbacks, and Burrows showed poise in the pocket throughout.

Two plays after running back Marquis Miller grinded out a 39-yard scamper, Burrows got the team back in the game with an 8-yard touchdown strike to fullback Adam DeCosta with 7:54 left in the second quarter.

But two back-breaking sequences in the opening half nullified an otherwise impressive two-quarter effort from the Buffaloes, who were snake-bitten by big plays in their previous losses to Tracy and Sierra.

Midway through the first quarter, Miller fumbled a handoff inside Manteca’s 5, and Oakdale linebacker Russel Price scooped it up for an easy 3-yard return to the end zone to put up the game’s first points with 5:39 left.

In the second, Bradley Hatfield’s 25-yard field goal closed the Buffaloes in 14-10 with 1:51 to go. Oakdale intended to run out the clock on its final drive of the half, but standout running back Devin Brooks had other plans.

Brooks broke loose for a 78-yard scoring run on third-and-5, and just like that the Mustangs regained control.

“That was a huge football play,” Merzon said. “We were ready to get to the half. We were going to get to the locker room, we were about to take a knee.”

While the halftime score of 21-10 indicates otherwise, Manteca outplayed its counterpart leading up to that point.

Miller, who finished with 155 yards on 31 carries, amassed 124 of his yards over the first two quarters. Oakdale was held to 126 total, all on the ground, and the majority of that came on Brooks’ run.

The Mustangs relied on their three backs to account for all of their 364 yards from scrimmage. Raham led the trip with 155 yards on 12 carries, Brooks had 115 on 14 and the 6-foot-2, 220-pound House battered his way to 94 on 22 to go with the three TDs.

For Manteca, Reggie Bell, an all-VOL first-team selection a year ago, doubled his season-long production with a sterling eight-catch, 124-yard performance.

“The momentum was just swinging back and forth and back and forth,” Manteca coach Eric Reis said. “Unfortunately, we were four inches short. If we get that one there, who knows?

“We just made a lot of little mistakes to go with the big ones. That’s a team that usually doesn’t make mistakes, and when you have opportunities you have take advantage of them.”
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