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Laurel breaks rushing record with Patterson on the sideline

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Manteca High’s Alex Laurel tries to get past Sacramento defender Daniel Vaden during last Friday’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division III title game at Lincoln High of Stockton.

HIME ROMERO/Bulletin file photo/

POSTED December 11, 2013 12:24 a.m.

Alex Laurel was locked in competition with Lonny Powell, Kalen McDonald and the rest of the Sacramento defense, but everything he chased was standing on the sideline.

There, among today’s Buffaloes, was one of yesterday’s very best.

Andre Patterson, a principle member of Manteca’s 2005 and ‘06 section title teams, wore his letterman with the wording “Catch me if you can” scrolled across the tail.

On a necklace, he kept two Sac-Joaquin Section championship rings.

With Friday’s virtuoso performance in a 49-6 victory over the Dragons, Laurel not only joined Patterson on Manteca’s Mount Rushmore of Running Backs but passed him in the record books.

Laurel rushed for 169 yards on 22 carries, setting the Buffaloes’ single-season rushing record.

That, however, was a just a footnote in a much bigger story. Manteca clinched its fourth Sac-Joaquin Section championship and third in eight years with a 43-point win, the widest margin for a final in section Division III history.

The victory vaults Manteca (13-1) into this Saturday’s CIF Northern California Division II regional bowl game against Enterprise (12-0), one of only eight undefeated teams left in California.

The winner will represent the north at the StubHub Center in Carson for the CIF State Bowl games on the weekend of Dec. 20-21.

Patterson set what is believed to be the modern-day program record with 1,727 yards in 2006. He parlayed that success into a starring role at the Community College of San Francisco, one of the top junior college programs in the nation.

Laurel surpassed Patterson on his 20th carry Friday night, a 12-yard gain in the third quarter. The senior, nicknamed “Nitro” for his get-away speed, has 1,799 yards on 236 touches. Laurel already owns the single-season touchdown mark with 34 rushing scores and 47 total, and he’s creeping up on Robert Ladiges’ mark of 272 carries set in 2010.

Amazingly, most of Laurel’s yards have come during this stretch run.

“Once we hit the postseason,” longtime Manteca High defensive coordinator Rick James said, “he just took off.”

Laurel’s late-season production can be directly attributed to the coaching staff’s decision to lighten his load early in the season.

He had 20 or more carries just twice in the first eight games of the season: a 20-carry, 194-yard effort in a Valley Oak League-opening win vs. Sonora; and a 25-carry, 202-yard performance in a 35-20 victory at Oakdale’s Corral.

“You’re talking about playing in Week 15. You would hate to have this chance and have guys dinged up. Knock of wood, we’ve been blessed with good health,” head coach Eric Reis said. “Part of it goes back to the fact that Alex Laurel wasn’t carrying the ball 30 to 40 times (at the beginning of the season). We were purposely limiting his touches. He’s still pretty fresh.”

Laurel’s assault on the program rushing record began in Week 8 at Sierra, a game with serious league title implications. Running behind an offensive line that averages 272 pounds, Laurel ground out 144 yards on 26 touches, clinching the Buffaloes’ first VOL title since 2010.

Since then, he’s strung together six straight games of at least 132 yards, including a season-high 258 and five touchdowns in a first-round shootout with Central Valley.

With another monster game – or perhaps two – Laurel could become the area’s second member of the 2,000-yard rushing club. Ripon Christian’s Andrew Brown is tops in the section with 2,781 yards.

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