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MANTECA TAKES D-III CROWN

Campiotti throws for 5 TDs while defense dominates Oakdale

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MANTECA TAKES D-III CROWN

Manteca tight end Kyle Rachels (12) races behind the Oakdale defense on a 59-yard touchdown pass play late in the first quarter.

Hime Romero/The Bulletin/


POSTED December 2, 2017 2:23 a.m.

STOCKTON —  Manteca got its revenge, and with it a sixth Sac-Joaquin Section championship.
Quarterback Gino Campiotti continued his sterling play in the postseason for the second-seeded Buffaloes on Friday, and the defense — with its dominant start and punishing finish — hogtied No. 1 Oakdale’s usually-unstoppable Wing-T for a 34-17 statement win in the Division III final at Lincoln High’s Alex G. Spanos Stadium.
The Mustangs (12-2) were heavy favorites, and understandably so. They were the defending champion in this bracket, a reigning state titlist and took down Manteca 36-15 en route to winning the Valley Oak League title earlier this season.
Manteca (12-2) rolled to the Division IV crown last year but wanted badly to move up to the more daunting Division-III pool. The reason? Revenge, and the Buffaloes got what they wanted.
“It’s about as sweet as it can get to be able to get into the D-III bracket and beat a longtime rival,” said Manteca coach Eric Reis, who has led the program to five of its six section titles. “It’s no mystery they’ve beaten me 11 times in the last 16 years and each of them hurt — just painful. We’ve had great teams, the both of us, so to get this one on the big stage is real special.”
And it took a special effort from the defense to make it happen. Oakdale was coming off a 63-27 semifinal win over Patterson, which the Mustangs trampled for more than 600 yards rushing — a program-record 359 coming from fullback Josh Jacobson. On Friday, he was limited to 78 yards and a touchdown on 13 attempts, and the Buffs held 2,000-yard rusher Cameron Cherry for 27 yards on 13 carries. Oakdale totaled only 92 yards on the ground, relying mostly on QB Marc Dickson (7 of 13, 154 yards, TD) to keep drives alive.
“Our game plan was really good, but it wasn’t only the game plan,” Manteca linebacker Ferrin Manuleleua said. “It was our attitude. Everybody doubted us. Nobody gave us a chance to beat them. That just sat with us wrong. We came out and played like we were hungry.”
Manuleleua went down with an injury on Manteca’s first drive in the second half after making a 13-yard catch for a first down. He never returned to action, but Manteca didn’t let up even without its defensive standout.
The Buffaloes shut out Oakdale for the rest of the game and forced three turnovers in the fourth quarter to put it away. Trailing 27-17, the Mustangs momentarily swung momentum in their favor when Zach Campbell completed a 20-yard pass to Jace Krick on a fake punt. Dickson fumbled a handoff on the next play, and Manteca lineman Kyle Reis came up with the loose ball.
That set up the backbreaking drive of the game. The Buffaloes were faced with third-and-14 from the Oakdale 23 when Campiotti, after a wild scramble, connected with Matthew Ender for the game’s final touchdown with 3:31 to go.
Campiotti connected with eight different receivers, finishing 19 of 26 for 251 yards and five touchdowns.
“Our receiving corps is the best I’ve ever seen,” Campiotti said. “I have five different guys, maybe six, that I can go to at any time and know they’re going to make a big play. We worked so hard all offseason and all season so far. The connection is just there right now, and we’re playing good football.”
Campiotti didn’t get to rest for long following the scoring play. Cherry threatened to take the ensuing kickoff to the house but had the ball knocked away by Vincent Ferro, and Ben Rea recovered it on Manteca’s 28.
Looking to milk the clock, Manteca was stalled on three run plays up the middle and punted for the first and only time of the night. Campiotti and the offense re-entered the field moments later, as Caden Ramsey jarred the ball free with a blindside sack of Dickson. Rayshon Dozier secured the fumbled ball, and Campiotti capped off the game with three kneeldowns.
“Our defense didn’t miss a beat without me, which is what we want to do,” Manuleleua said. “We don’t want to miss a beat just because one player is down.”
Oakdale was unable to get a first down on each of its first three drives of the contest, while Manteca’s attack started with all cylinders firing. Campiotti began the early onslaught with a 12-yard strike to Jorge Cedano, then hit tight end Kyle Rachels for 13- and 59-yard touchdowns for a stunning 20-0 first-quarter lead.
Oakdale rallied for 17 unanswered points, the first of them coming from a 27-yard field goal by Nathan Richardson. The Mustangs got their first touchdown when Dickson found Krick on a 17-yard toss with 34 seconds left in the opening half. Manteca earlier missed an opportunity to widen its lead when Cedano dropped a fourth-down pass in the end zone.
Cedano shook it off and caught his second touchdown pass in the third quarter, finishing as the Buffaloes top receiver with 67 yards on five receptions.
“That guy right there, he just came up to me and had a talk with me,” Cedano said while pointing in Campiotti’s direction. “He said don’t worry about it, we’re going to get it. Next play, next play, have short-term memory.”
The gap was further slimmed on their first drive of the third quarter capped by Jacobson’s 3-yard run. Oakdale continued to pour on the pressure when cornerback Mikai Harris picked off a Campiotti pass intended for Cedano in the end zone. Manteca caught a break on the next drive when a wide-open Cherry let a perfect pass slip through his fingers on  third down, and the Buffaloes seized control from there.
“It was a big, heavyweight fight,” Reis said. “It’s like I told them, if you hit them on the nose they’re not going to go down.”
Neither did his Buffaloes, and their season goes on. The CIF will release pairings for NorCal bowl games on Sunday.
“We worked so hard for it,” Campiotti said.” All year long this is what we’ve wanted.”

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