It was a mismatch from the start.
Isaac McClain, Manteca’s 6-foot-3, 291-pound senior, smothered East Union’s Andrew Ortiz, a 5-6, 130-pound running back on a screen play late in the first half, knocking Ortiz from the game.
“They always tell us ‘smell the rat, smell the screen’, and that time I did,” McClain said.
The play was a microcosm of the Valley Oak League champion’s dominance over its cross-town rival. The Buffaloes, who finished a perfect 7-0 in VOL and 9-1 overall, cruised by East Union at Guss Schmiedt Field, 49-7.
Manteca senior standouts Joe Menzel and Alex Laurel both went haywire on the stat sheet in limited action. Although it took the Buffaloes almost an entire quarter to score, once they fell into rhythm, East Union (0-7, 1-9) didn’t have an answer.
Menzel (10 for 13, 223 yards, 4 TDs) broke the ice with a 4-yard strike to Jacob LeDon to make it 7-0 after one quarter. Manteca scored three touchdowns apiece in the second and third quarters to invoke the rout.
On the Buffaloes’ first possession of the second quarter, they went to Laurel out of the Wildcat. It worked so well, Manteca stayed in the formation the entire drive, feeding Laurel. He rushed for 73 of his 172 yards on the drive and capped it with a 1-yard plunge.
On the Buffs’ next possession, Menzel completed two consecutive passes, the second a 56-yard strike to Laurel, who also had two rushing scores.
“We started off a little rocky at the beginning but we really picked it up and the starters really got it going,” said Menzel, who also threw touchdowns to Nick Gatehouse and Brandon Dabney. “Big time execution and it’s really easy when you got receivers wide open down the field with nobody around for 20 yards.
“We’re happy with the VOL championship. We’ll soak it in and we’re ready for the playoffs.”
Manteca went ahead 28-0 before halftime when Menzel found Gatehouse up the seam for a 45-yard score.
The Buffaloes took three plays and 70 seconds to go up 35-0 to start the second half. Menzel hooked up with a wide-open Dabney (2 catches, 50 yards) for a 39-yard TD.
Michael Gonzalez broke from 60 yards out to put Manteca up six possessions and Laurel found the right sideline for 64 yards to make it 49-0 and ignited the running clock.
Manteca defensive back Dom Pisano picked off EU junior Isaiah Gordon (4 for 13, 58 yards).
East Union’s only score came from Eddie Daube (8 carries, 67 yards) in the fourth quarter as the Lancers avoided the shutout.
“We have to play the team they put out there,” said Manteca head coach Eric Reis. “It’s our rivalry game, and (East Union) played hard. I don’t know who in the NFL said ‘You are who your record says you are, and we are.’ You have to play the game. It’s Week 10.”
Manteca, which hasn’t won a section title since 2006, brought out the same throwback jerseys they wore during that same championship run that featured Michael Turner, Andre Patterson, Ruben Cedano, Beau Fryer and Michael Barber. That team went 13-0 and won the blue banner over Colfax, 34-14.
“You know what, our guys wanted to go retro,” Reis explained. “That was the last year we won the section, so the guys wanted to bring that feel back.”
Manteca will find out who it will face in the opening round of the postseason, slated to start next week, later this afternoon.