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Manteca’s Nichelson, punishing run game spoil homecoming for Jaguars
Manteca-Kimball football
Kimball cornerback Erik Nino (21) whiffs as Manteca’s Blake Nichelson (20) changes direction en route to a 35-yard catch-and-run touchdown Friday at Don Nichelson Stadium in Tracy. - photo by SEAN KAHLER


Manteca 6 15 21 13 — 55

Kimball 6 7 6 0 — 19


First quarter

M — Blake Nichelson 62 pass from Hudson Wyatt (run failed), 9:53.

K — Travis Marieiro 2 pass from Jayden McKey (kick failed), 5:58.


Second quarter

M — Nichelson 35 pass from Wyatt (Matthew Kong kick), 9:03.

K — Darius Doyle 13 pass from McKey (Biaghi Favela kick), 6:46.

M — Bryson Davis 6 run (Alijah Cota run), 0:52.


Third quarter

M — Cota 1 run (Wyatt run), 7:59.

M — Landon Chamberlain 1 run (kick blocked), 2:46.

K — Doyle 73 pass from McKey (pass failed), 2:01.

M — Kaden MacDannald 38 run (Kong kick), 0:00.


Fourth quarter

M — Davis 1 run (run failed), 8:16.

M — MacDannald 5 run (Kong kick), 7:05.

TRACY — Blake Nichelson already plays many roles for Manteca, and on Friday he added another — shutdown cornerback.

Recruited as an inside linebacker, the Florida State commit worked his usual magic on the offensive end as both running back and wide receiver, and he got to show off his cover skills in a 55-19 running-clock blowout of Kimball at Don Nicholson Stadium.

He helped the 5-0 Buffaloes break away in the second half with an interception and added a pass breakup while defending Travis Marieiro, one of the top two receivers for Kimball (3-3). The 6-foot-1 Marieiro was held to one catch in the second half while guarded by Nichelson, finishing with seven for 75 yards and a touchdown.

“They have a couple of really good receivers, but we made a real easy adjustment — Blake, get on their best guy,” Manteca coach Mark Varnum said. “He was non-existent the rest of the game. It’s always nice to be able to go to that.”

The Valley Oak League opener, which was also homecoming for Kimball, was Manteca’s first game in three weeks. The Buffaloes are coming off a bye but had their previous game cancelled by Reno-based opponent Damante Ranch because of unhealthy air quality from the Mosquito Fire.

Manteca’s last game was a 59-22 trouncing of Turlock on Sept. 9.

“There was a little rust and we tried every trick in the book to make sure we didn’t have that, but three weeks is three weeks,” Varnum said. “Once we got going we got back to our level.”

Nichelson gave Manteca an early boost. In the first half, Hudson Wyatt hit him for 62- and 35-yard touchdown passes. Bryson Davis added a 6-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter, ending a 5-minute, 39-second drive as Manteca carried a 21-13 lead into halftime

The Buffaloes continued to pound away at the Kimball defense on the opening drive of the second half, capping it with a 1-yard run from Alijah Cota (seven rushes, 45 yards). A minute later, Nichelson came up with his interception, and the rout was on. Nichelson outleaped Marieiro on a deep ball from Jaden McKey for the pick.

“He’s a good receiver,” Nichelson said. “It was a hard battle, to be honest, but overall it’s just fun to get up for good competition because that’s just going to get me prepared for the next level.”

Offensively, he ended with 131 rushing yards on 18 carries, adding three catches for 111 yards. Wyatt connected with Diego Esparza on a 59-yard toss in the fourth quarter, finishing 4-of-7 for 170 yards, two scores and no interceptions.

Kaden MacDannald (six rushes, 86 yards) and Davis (14 rushes, 78 yards) each scored twice. Fullback Landon Chamberlain (five rushes, 13 yards) added one TD.

Manteca totaled 526 yards of offense, 356 coming on 55 rushing attempts.

“That’s what we want to do,” Varnum said. “We want to share the wealth a little bit and hit our shots, and Huddy did that a couple times tonight. When we’re clicking, it’s hard to stop.”

McKey completed 12 of 21 passes for 181 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Kimball, which was held to 269 yards. He provided much of the Jaguars’ early offense with his scrambling ability, finishing with 37 yards and eight rushes. Running back Sebastian Tate (nine rushes, 41 yards) had a 30-yard scamper but was otherwise neutralized by the Manteca defense.

Darius Doyle caught four passes for 104 yards and two scores. McKey hit him in stride for a 73-yard catch-and-run TD late in the third quarter, but those would be the only points scored by Kimball in the second half. The Buffaloes have allowed just 26 second-half points all season.

Joshua Puetz recorded two quarterback sacks for Manteca, while Davis and Cota chipped in each. Eddie Anthony recovered mishandled kickoff in the fourth quarter for a turnover.

“There are some little adjustments that we make, and just take away the big play,” Varnum said. “There have been very few times where teams have been able to drive on us. Usually it’s big stop, big stop and then somebody gets loose. I think we’re getting better at taking that away, and the speed we have on defense is pretty impressive right now.”

Manteca hosts Sierra next Friday.