The Sac-Joaquin Section added a “Zero Week” to the football schedule for the first time, but it didn’t go well for the three area teams that opted to start the season earlier than what they were used to. At Sierra, eventual Modesto Metro Conference champion Enochs reeled off 21 unanswered points in the second half for a 35-23 come-from-behind victory. While the Timberwolves struggled offensively for three quarters — all of their points came in the second quarter — it was a breakthrough performance for Enochs RB Herbert Whitehurst, who rambled for four touchdowns.
In other Zero Week action:
• Louie Mejia was stopped at the goal line as time expired, and Ripon came up short in Ceres in a heartbreaking 22-15 defeat. Ripon battled valiantly after trailing 15-0 at halftime and tied it with 1:07 left in the third quarter with Ryan Durrer’s 2-yard run followed by Alex Gustin’s 2-point conversion pass to Jake McCreath. But Ceres recaptured the lead on the next play from scrimmage — a 71-yard jaunt by Zach Naylor. Ceres ended a streak of season-opening losses at 12 years with the victory, but the Bulldogs would go on to start another streak by dropping their final nine contests of the season.
• Ripon Christian struck first, but it was all Big Valley Christian after that in a 25-14 defeat. Aaron Fay plunged into the end zone on RC’s opening possession, but the Lions took control and countered with a 19-point run.
Robert Ladiges took center stage for Manteca in his first varsity game as the Buffaloes’ featured running back. Aided by a dominating effort from the linemen, he battered his way to 211 yards and four TDs on 28 carries in a 51-22 victory over Galt.
In other Week 1 action:
• It came down to 4 yards and four plays. Holding on for dear life, East Union led 29-28 as host Beyer threatened to steal the win in the final minute. In what ended up being a Cinderella season for the Lancers, they got their riveting 2010 campaign started with a thrilling goal-line stand and a win.
• The Jekyll-Hyde act continued for Sierra in a 38-28 victory. The T’Wolves held a commanding 24-0 halftime lead before Davis came roaring back over the final two quarters. The game marked the debut of Manteca transfer Anthony Cota, a sophomore RB who rushed for 87 yards and received 79 and a score.
• RB Ryan Durrer scampered for 145 yards and four scores, while QB Alex Gustin added 214 yards rushing and a TD to lead Ripon in a 41-28 win over Linden.
• Escalon’s march to the California Interscholastic Federation Division-III Bowl championship started at Lathrop, one of the section’s newest schools that introduced its first-ever senior class in 2010-11. Escalon won, 37-0.
• Weston Ranch didn’t score its first TD of 2010 until the final drive of its 34-7 loss at Calaveras.
A classic finish punctuated a classic rivalry matchup between old-school foes Manteca and Tracy. With no time left, an unlikely hero emerged as WR Eric Ceja caught the game-winning 26-yard TD thrown by QB Matt Burrows. Robert Ladiges scored five TDs — three rushing, one receiving, one on a fumble return.
In other Week 2 action:
• East Union shot out to a 16-0 halftime lead and held on for a 16-13 victory against Bear Creek, which scored all of its points in the final quarter. QB TeeJay Gordon was in on both of EU’s scores, one a 4-yard run and the other a 10-yard pass.
• George Atkinson, the son of a former Raider great who goes by the same name, was the star of a shootout between his Granada Matadors and Sierra. Atkinson amassed 264 yards from scrimmage (109 rushing) and four touchdowns in Granada’s 56-42 win. Granada netted 582 yards of offense.
• The Ripon Bowl ended in the same fashion as its four predecessors: A blowout win for Ripon High. The Indians were sparked by sophomore Cole Herrin’s two interception TD returns in their 44-0 drubbing of Ripon Christian.
• History was made for Lathrop, as it produced its first-ever varsity win 28-21 at McClatchy. QB Elijah Cash connected with Brandon McLaurin for the game-deciding 49-yard TD with a minute remaining.
• Weston Ranch hung tough against Tokay for three quarters, but a 97-yard run by Andrew Richard broke the Cougars’ backs in a 42-21 defeat.
For the first time in 17 years, East Union completed its non-league schedule with a perfect 3-0 record with a commanding 21-7 win over Ceres. QB TeeJay Gordon accounted for 249 (104 rushing, 145 passing) of the Lancers’ 271 yards of offense and scored all three TDs on the ground. The defense shined in the second half after allowing a TD that capped a 15-play drive. Ceres failed to record a first down for the remainder of the game.
In other Week 3 action:
• Manteca did it again. For the second straight week, the Buffaloes mounted a fourth-quarter comeback to win, this time upending Enochs, 34-33. RB Robert Ladiges took over in the fourth quarter, when he scored both of his TDs. Most of Manteca’s damage was done through the air, as QB Matt Burrows hooked up with WR Michael Timmins for three scores.
• With an overtime period looming, host Bear Creek escaped victorious 19-13 against Weston Ranch when the dynamic Jack Phouminavong returned a kickoff 72 yards in the final seconds.
• Sophomore cornerback Cole Herrin returned a third interception for a third TD in two weeks, but it wasn’t enough in Ripon’s 30-19 mistake-filled loss to visiting Argonaut. QB Alex Gustin accounted for 259 of Ripon’s 300 yards from scrimmage.
• Linden standout Jeremy Powers rambled for 275 yards and two scores to spearhead the Lions to a 41-0 thrashing of Ripon Christian. It was the third straight week that Powers eclipsed the 200-yard mark.
One year after Sierra delivered Oakdale’s first league loss since 2000 at the Corral, the Mustangs got their revenge. Oakdale pummeled its way to a 33-15 win at Sierra, using an impressive scoring drive that spanned nearly the entire third quarter to break the T’Wolves’ spirits. Oakdale dominated possession throughout and outgained the hosts 412-197 in offensive yards from scrimmage.
In other Week 4 action:
• The Lancers made it four straight to start the season, and their 31-0 shutout of Lathrop on homecoming night was East Union’s most complete victory to date. QB TeeJay Gordon and reserve RB Ryan Somphitack put the Spartans away for good with 46- and 41-yard TD scampers, respectively in the fourth quarter.
• Manteca welcomed first-year varsity Kimball to the VOL with a 62-0 beatdown in Tracy. The Buffaloes were well ahead 48-0 by halftime, and backup RB Jamontee Jones rambled for 164 yards and 2 TDs. QB Matt Burrows completed 8 of 10 passes, four of which went for TDs.
• Hampered by injuries to several key players, Hilmar went away from its successful spread attack and reintroduced its traditional Wing-T to edge Ripon 21-14 in the Trans-Valley League opener. Hilmar closed it out with an 8-minute, 1-second drive.
• Ripon Christian competed in its first Southern League contest but just so happened to draw eventual league and Sac-Joaquin Section Division-V champion Le Grand, which coasted, 48-12.
• Weston Ranch fell to 0-4 on the year with a 41-18 loss against Sonora.
The T’Wolves continued their reign in the Sierra-East Union crosstown rivalry series, but this win was far less far less one-sided as the previous six. Sierra needed a 6-yard TD pass from backup QB Anthony Perea to Harold Wright to pull ahead 30-28 with 34.7 seconds left. East Union QB TeeJay Gordon’s desperation pass in the final seconds sailed over Robert Vaughn near the end zone. EU proved it was for real after starting 4-0 against beatable opponents, taking the defending VOL co-champion to the brink with the rabid backing of their Red Sea cheering section in enemy territory.
In other Week 5 action:
• Manteca’s balanced offense was unstoppable in a 36-0 homecoming victory over Weston Ranch. RB Robert Ladiges gained 146 of the Buffaloes’ 305 rushing yards while scoring three times, and QB Matt Burrows was 6-of-9 for 150 yards and two TDs. The Buffs moved to 5-0, while Weston Ranch remained winless.
• Lathrop played at Sonora’s famed Dunlavy Field for the first time and was dealt a 35-14 loss. It didn’t take long for Sonora to strike, as it scored on its first play from scrimmage en route to staking a 28-0 halftime lead.
• Isaac Norman’s 7-yard TD run helped Ripon Christian take an 8-0 lead into the second quarter, but Mariposa did the rest of the damage in a 51-8 shellacking. The Kinalele brothers shined for Mariposa, with Brandon piling up 214 rushing yards and four scores and Justin adding 91 and a pair of TDs.
It was a big night all-around for Manteca, which avenged two straight losses to rival Sierra, 26-20. RB Robert Ladiges toted the football a whopping 50 times for 248 yards and three touchdowns, and the Buffalo defense yielded just three first downs and 31 total yards from scrimmage in the second half. The win was the 77th in the career of eighth-year head coach Eric Reis, who broke Walker Vick’s all-time program mark of 76.
In other Week 6 action:
• East Union rebounded from its first loss of the season with a 31-21 victory over Weston Ranch. QB TeeJay Gordon (13-16 passing, 120 yards; 115 yards rushing, 2 TDs) put it out of reach with a 38-yard TD run with 57 seconds remaining. Steven Gigli also scored twice while rambling for 107 yards to keep the Weston Ranch defense off balanced.
• Facing perennial power and eventual Division-III state champion Escalon, Ripon was dealt a huge blow on the game’s sixth play when QB Alex Gustin left with an injury. Escalon went on to roll 45-13, scoring all of its points over the first three quarters before allowing the Indians to get on board in the fourth.
• Ripon Christian’s offense came alive, but so did Denair’s in a 64-33 loss. Denair scored the game’s first 20 points and the final 17.
• Oakdale led 21-0 before its defense took the field en route to a 49-0 romp of Lathrop.
In a battle between two of the three remaining winless teams in the Valley Oak League, it was Weston Ranch that prevailed 15-3 over Lathrop on homecoming night. The win was also the first of the season overall for the Cougars, who were led by RB Melvin Allen’s 152 yards and a touchdown. Though the final score indicates otherwise, Lathrop won the possession and turnover battles but had several drives stall out in Cougar territory.
In other Week 7 action:
• Sonora’s Dunlavy Field gives the home team many advantages, but Manteca was quick to nullify all of them in a 42-13 drubbing. The Buffaloes were led by three TD passes from Matt Burrows and three rushing TDs from Robert Ladiges.
• Marred by five turnovers, East Union suffered its first blowout loss of the season 63-21 at Oakdale. The host Mustangs opened up a 21-0 lead after EU turned it over on its first three drives.
• Sophomore Anthony Cota put forth his finest effort of the season, rushing 11 times for 167 yards and scoring four TDs all in the first half in Sierra’s 58-20 thrashing of first-year varsity Kimball.
• Jake McCreath filled in nicely for injured Alex Gustin behind center, completing 13 of 16 passes for 207 yards and three TDs to help Ripon cruise past Hughson, 35-7.
• Ripon Christian registered its first win in Southern League play 39-13 against Turlock Christian. Sophomore Zach Davis converted two field goals and scored TDs on a 45-yard pass play and a 46-yard run.
With a playoff berth on the line, East Union needed a 20-point outburst in the fourth quarter to sweat out a 40-26 win over upset-minded Kimball, a first-year varsity team with no seniors. The game pitted Kimball’s potent running game (259 yards) and EU’s air attack (271 yards). QB TeeJay Gordon threw for four TDs, two of them to Robert Vaughn in the fourth quarter.
In other Week 8 action:
• It was the Adrian Valencia Show for Sierra, which rolled past Sonora, 28-7. The shifty QB rushed for 130 yards while scoring all of the Timberwolves’ touchdowns. Sierra was in full control with its ground game, as it rushed for 344 of its 475 offensive yards.
• Manteca raced out to a 41-6 halftime lead and coasted 47-19 against Lathrop to set up its first-place showdown with Oakdale. Receiver Ryan Culpepper scored on 52- and 36-yard pass plays, and RB Robert Ladiges hit paydirt twice from the ground before the second team took over.
• Ripon evened its record to 2-2 in the Trans-Valley League and 4-4 overall with a much-needed 20-0 triumph against Modesto Christian. The Indians put the game away in the fourth quarter after failing to score twice from inside MC’s 5 in the first half.
• Behind Isaac Norman’s 179 yards and four TDs (one on a punt return), Ripon Christian easily dispatched Delhi 33-6 for its second win of the season.
• Powerful Oakdale ran through the rain and Weston Ranch’s defense in a 42-14 victory.
There was a whole lot of offense when Manteca and Oakdale met with a piece of the Valley Oak League championship on the line, but it came down to defense. Sparked by two goal-line stands, Manteca prevailed, 35-28. Oakdale fullback A.C. Brown was stopped on fourth-down plays by DL Dylan Law in the second quarter and by CB David Farrington in the fourth. Robert Ladiges rushed for 219 yards and three TDs for Manteca, and Marcus Hernandez checked in with 198 and two for Oakdale.
In other Week 9 action:
• Sierra continues its late-season surge, pounding Lathrop 49-7 for its third straight win. The T’Wolves hit on all cylinders, with Adrian Valencia throwing for 239 yards and two TDs, RB Anthony Cota finding paydirt three times and WR Grant Widmer catching five passes for 112 yards and two scores.
• Paul Boone, a late-season addition for Weston Ranch, rushed for 158 yards, and Donnell Sims punched in three TDs as the Cougars crushed Kimball, 46-16.
• With its Week-10 matchup against undefeated Manteca looming, East Union’s playoff hopes began to dim after a staggering 68-20 defeat at Sonora.
• Back from a one-week absence to nurse a leg injury, QB Alex Gustin moved to RB and led Ripon’s 51-8 bashing of Riverbank. Gustin needed just four touches to score four times and accumulate 111 rushing yards.
• Coming off back-to-back wins, Ripon Christian had its momentum abruptly stalled by a 29-7 loss to Waterford.
East Union gave up 60-plus points to Oakdale and Sonora earlier in the season, and its postseason hopes hinged on this one game against undefeated Manteca, which had beaten the Lancers 10 straight seasons and boasted the most prolific offense in the Valley Oak League. The Lancers went on to pull off the stunner of the year, 10-7. East Union clinched its first playoff berth in 18 years, while Manteca suffered its first loss of the season and settled for a share of the VOL title with Oakdale.
In other Week 10 action:
• Sierra secured its third straight playoff appearance with its fourth-consecutive win, 53-6 over Weston Ranch, of the season after starting off 2-4. RB Anthony Cota had 13 rushes go for 144 yards and 3 TDs, all in the first half, as Sierra piled up 532 yards of offense.
• Ripon traveled to Newman to square off with Orestimba for a win-or-go-home battle in the Trans Valley League finale. Electric QB/DB Ravonne Pious carried Orestimba to the final Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV berth in a 40-21 win. Pious sprinted 77 yards for one TD, returned an interception 34 yards for another and added two more scores through the air. Ripon trailed just 7-6 at halftime but was done in by big plays and mistakes in the third quarter.
• Senior RB Isaac Norman went out with a bang for Ripon Christian, which blasted Gustine 35-6 thanks to his spectacular 334-yard, four-touchdown effort.
For the first time ever, all three Manteca schools qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs, but none of them made it out of the first round. Sixth-seeded East Union was bludgeoned 58-7 by No. 1 Del Oro, the eventual Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III champion. Coincidentally, Del Oro was the school that eliminated East Union from the postseason when the Lancers last qualified in 1992. The Golden Eagles cashed in all of their points in the first three quarters, using a dominant running game to wear down EU. Steven Gigli’s 5-yard TD run with 1:43 remaining erased the shutout.
In other Week 11 action:
• No area school has experienced heartbreak like Manteca has in recent years. The Buffaloes’ 2010 campaign ended with successive upset losses. The top-seeded squad in the SJS Division-III bracket was ousted in the first round at home for the second straight year, dropping an unexpectedly one-sided 55-22 loss to Vanden. It appeared to be business as usual at the start when the Buffaloes marched 48 yards and scored on Robert Ladiges’ 1-yard run. The Vikings answered with 40 unanswered points.
• Three lower-seeded teams won in the Division-III opener, and Sierra nearly made it four. The 15th-seeded Timberwolves fought valiantly in an action-packed tussle but came up short 49-45 at No. 2 Patterson. The Tigers overcame eight fumbles and a 39-21 third-quarter deficit. The game-winning TD was scored with 2:05 remaining, when Patterson RB George Garcia fumbled the ball at around the Sierra 5 and somehow came up with it in the end zone.