The rematch between the Manteca and Wilcox football teams will still take place in Santa Clara, but likely on a much bigger — and far more expensive — stage than originally expected.
While nothing has been made official as of Friday, the two squads are scheduled to open the 2014 season on Aug. 29 at Levi’s Stadium, the new billion-dollar home of the San Francisco 49ers. It would be the first of two games played that night, the other pitting national powerhouse De La Salle (Concord) against Jesuit (Carmichael).
“The 49ers approached (Wilcox) and wanted to run a little dress rehearsal before their first home game of the season,” Manteca coach Eric Reis said. “It’s going to have all the bells and whistles that are just going to make it a crazy event. We’re really super excited about it.”
Both Wilcox, the hometown team, and Manteca had roadblocks to get through to make it work.
Manteca had to break its two-year contract with Central Valley (Ceres), its original zero-week opponent. The two teams met in Ceres last year and again at Manteca’s Guss Schmiedt Field in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs. Manteca won both games and was part of section history with the 69-55 postseason victory, the first of four that led to its SJS Division III championship and an invitation to the CIF Division II State Regional Bowl Game.
The Buffaloes were responsible for seeking out a new zero-week opponent for Central Valley while paying a fee to get out of the two-year deal. Castlemont of Oakland agreed to face Central Valley on Aug. 29, and Manteca will now face Valley Christian (Dublin), a North Coast Section Division V playoff qualifier, a week later.
“It took a tremendous amount of work,” said Reis, who credited Manteca athletic director Dave Smith and assistant coach Jerry Walser for doing much of the heavy lifting. It is Walser’s longtime friendship with Wilcox head coach Dan Brown that helped forge a football relationship between the two schools to begin with.
“This late in the game it’s hard to find opponents, but it all worked out,” Reis added.
Wilcox had to get approval from the Central Coast Section on its end. The CCS, a smaller section than the NCS and SJS, has a three-week postseason schedule and teams are not allowed to play nonleague contests before Week 1. The Chargers got the waiver it needed from the CCS Board of Managers.
Wilcox squeaked out a 28-27 victory in its epic clash with Manteca at Guss Schmiedt Field on Sept. 6. The game was decided on a fumbled snap on a two-point conversion try in overtime.
Reis suspects that the prestige gained from his team’s historic run to a NorCal Bowl bid as well as the Buffaloes’ loyal following factored into Brown’s decision to handpick Manteca for what could be a once-in-lifetime occasion.
Manteca and Jesuit fans are known to travel well, De La Salle is De La Salle and Wilcox is sure to have the backing of its hometown, so a large crowd is expected Aug. 29 once the final steps are made. Reis said that many of the details, such as ticket costs, have yet to be ironed out.
“Our game with Wilcox last year was one of the all-time best games in our school’s history,” Reis said. “It would be great if we can come close to duplicating that, and what a great venue to do it in. It would have been neat to have it at The ‘Stick (Candlestick Park), but to have it at Levi’s Stadium is super special.”