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BIG GAME(s)

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BIG GAME(s)

Manteca High’s Marcus Rivas breaks through the Sierra defense for one of his four touchdowns in last year’s freshman football game won by Manteca, 32-20.

HIME ROMERO/Bulletin file photos/


POSTED October 30, 2013 1:13 a.m.

Word on the street is that there is a big game in town Friday night.

Two actually.

And don’t forget about the one on Thursday.

Three Valley Oak League championships are up for grabs between two rival schools in what could be a historic week of prep football in Manteca.

The freshmen kick off the fun Thursday at Manteca’s Guss Schmiedt Field. The action shifts to Sierra’s Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium on Friday for the sophomore and varsity games.

The sidelines could get crowded for the varsity contest, which is up for vote for the KCRA Game of the Week and News10 Xfinity Fan Game of the Week. KCRA’s online poll closes tonight at 7, while the News10 one ends Thursday at 4.

“The whole school — from administration, to faculty, to students — is abuzz about Friday night,” Sierra varsity head coach Jeff Harbison said. Playing a game of such significance against a crosstown rival so late in the season is great for the community.”

When was the last time two programs in this city clashed in games this meaningful, this late in the season? Well, this is certainly a first in the short history of the Manteca-Sierra squabble.

While there have been Manteca-Sierra duels of significance in recent years, this intensifying rivalry was previously scheduled anywhere from Weeks 5-8 since 2004. The last time the city’s oldest and newest schools got together for a Week-9 battle was in 2003, but neither were playoff teams that year. And from 2001-2007 Manteca monopolized in-town bragging rights.

Sierra ended the Buffaloes’ reign of terror in 2008 and has won three of the last five. East Union broke a 10-year losing streak by upsetting a 9-0 Manteca team in 2010. Overall, Manteca leads the all-time series against Sierra, 12-6, and East Union, 32-13-1.

“It goes in cycles,” said Manteca coach Eric Reis. “Whenever you have two good teams obviously the rivalry grows. That’s what makes a rivalry — you gotta have two teams playing well.”

In this case, two programs are playing well, from the freshmen up to the varsity.

Sierra’s varsity (6-2 overall) has yet to claim an outright share of the VOL title but has a chance at capturing a share of its second in five years with a win Friday night. The sophomore Timberwolves (4-0-1, 7-0-1) tied Oakdale two weeks ago but can still have the championship all to themselves by handing undefeated Manteca its first loss. And both freshmen classes are perfect in league with 7-1 overall records, going on a tear since their preseason setbacks.

Sierra’s underclassmen have already downed their other crosstown rival, with the sophomore squad escaping East Union last week with a 6-0 win and the freshmen holding off the Lancers, 14-6.

“Most of our guys were really pumped for that one because we got to go up against a lot of our friends that we played with in Pop Warner,” said Marcos Castillo, who plays a running back, free safety and kicker for the Sierra freshmen. “It will be the same thing this week; we know a lot of the Manteca Buffaloes. It’s going to be a dogfight.”

The Sierra freshmen can win it outright Friday since it has league bye in Week 10. Freshman bragging rights have belonged to Manteca, which last lost to Sierra in 2005 and East Union in 2002. Jon Shaefer is the city’s longest-tenured lower-level coach having been in charge of Manteca’s freshmen for 15 years.

For the Manteca lower-level teams, winning this week doesn’t mean that they are in the clear. The Buffs cap their season against East Union, a school with a bright future with its freshman and sophomore teams playing competitively.

“It just shows there are a lot of great athletes in the city of Manteca,” Shaefer said.

And for two nights this week, many of them will be on display.

“We’re not putting all of our eggs in one basket this week,” Reis said, “but for the VOL championships at every level to come down to Manteca city schools it definitely makes it special.”

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