SACRAMENTO — It wasn’t 40 days or 40 nights, it was just 40 long seconds.
In those final 40 ticks of the first half, Manteca turned the ball over on downs near the red zone, and a 62-yard worst-case-scenario bomb Inderkum helped put the Tigers up for good in their 30-21 Sac-Joaquin Section Division III first-round win Friday.
Manteca (6-5), the 11th seed, was in the middle of a 12-play drive and looking to go up by two scores, when a fourth-and-six attempt after two incompletions came up short at the Inderkum 23-yard line. A score there, of any variety, would have likely ended the half. Instead, Inderkum quarterback C.J. Spencer made sure that 40 seconds hurt the Buffaloes.
He swallowed the 77 yards in three plays, connecting with Khalil Hudson for the bulk of it on the 62-yarder, and finding Terrance White for a 9-yard touchdown. White’s 2-point conversion run would put the Tigers up 20-14 with eight seconds to spare.
The play violated a near-perfect Manteca High effort through the first 23 minutes, which featured two drives of over 10-plays, with one ending with a 9-yard Eddie Smith (27 carries, 118 yards) touchdown., and a physical presence in the interior line that was winning the battle at the line of scrimmage.
“That ball was tipping up and you have a chance but we didn’t get it,” Manteca head coach Eric Reis said. “To win games you have to make plays, and unfortunately in that position we didn’t get it done.”
Manteca cruised 70 yards on 14 plays after winning the coin toss and electing to receive. Offensively, the team could not have had a better opening drive, yet the defensive side of the ball only needed five plays to see what Spencer can do. He found a wide-open Larry Hardy for a 53-yard score. The Buffs had Inderkum in a third-and-7 situation, but when Spencer (8-of-12, 189 yards 3 TDs) got outside the pocket, trouble was imminent.
“He’s been special all year,” Inderkum head coach Terry Stark said of his signal caller. “He’s getting better and better. We’ve been throwing the ball a lot more in practice because we lost so many running backs. The other guys we have are good no doubt, but we have a couple of receivers and a good quarterback.
“He evolved because of the injuries and he’s special.”
Both teams opened the second half with punts on their first possessions, but Inderkum would get a 26-yard field goal from Spencer to go up 23-14. Manteca would answer with a 16-play, Joe Menzel led drive that culminated with a 1-yard Menzel plunge to make it 23-21.
Like in each similar opportunity that presented itself, Inderkum (9-2) would answer. Only it would be from a new factor named Brandon Powell and he would peel of a 48-yard run through the middle of the Manteca defense and a few of its players. Spencer would hit Josh Montes for a 4-yard score putting the Tigers up nine.
Menzel would get picked off on the ensuing drive at the Inderkum 10 and the Buffaloes fate was sealed.
“This was a good team,” Smith said of Inderkum. “We worked hard, but it is something that you will look back and wonder could you have worked harder. You can’t shoot yourself in the foot like that. We’ve lost in the first round of the playoffs the past couple years and we didn’t want that.
“We played some strong teams this season and we felt like we were ready but it didn’t work out.”