OAKDALE — The game did not live up to the hype.
Manteca High could not get its balanced attack untracked at The Corral Friday while struggling to stop the Mustangs’ powerful Wing-T in a 49-14 Valley Oak League loss — the Buffaloes’ first overall defeat of the season.
Still-unbeaten Oakdale trampled its way to 475 rushing yards, and junior quarterback Spencer Thomas led a 21-0 surge to start the contest. Its only two negative plays of the contest came at the end, when reserve quarterback Eddie Machado kneeled twice as the running clock ticked down to zeroes.
The landslide victory surprised even Oakdale coach Trent Merzon, whose team blasted its previous eight opponents by an average margin of 34.1 points.
“I never saw this coming,” Merzon said. “I think Manteca is one heck of a football team, it just kind of snowballed on them a little bit. Sometimes games can do that, especially big games.”
Thomas was in on the first three scores, rambling from 32 and 60 yards out for touchdowns before hitting tight end Miko Arpoika with a 15-yard toss 5 seconds into the second quarter.
Thomas rushed for 120 yards on five carries and completed four of five passes for 91 yards. The one incompletion was a dropped ball by a wide-open Justin Martin on a third-down play during Oakdale’s second offensive series.
And when Thomas wasn’t rolling out on pass plays, he was handing off to the two Marcuses. Marcus Hernandez bulled his way to 204 yards and three touchdowns on just 12 rushes, while Marcus Northcutt had 10 carries go for 98 yards.
“I’m so impressed with their line,” Manteca coach Eric Reis said. “They dominated up front and really beat us with the playaction. Spencer played phenomenal and is just so athletic.”
Manteca (5-1, 8-1) punted on its first three possessions and turned it over with a fumble on its fourth with 23 seconds left in the first quarter.
The offense showed signs of life in the second, moving 80 yards on eight plays for its first set of points. Alex Hernandez hit Danny Gouveia for a 31-yard catch on third-and-16 to keep the drive alive, and on fourth-and-11 the combo struck again for a 35-yard touchdown.
Oakdale fumbled on Manteca’s 5 on the next possession, and for a moment it appeared that the expected battle was finally about to begin.
Fullback Joe Trout sparked the Buffaloes with a 26-yard run on third-and-21, but the drive stalled on their 31. Oakdale countered with a 4-yard touchdown run by Marcus Hernandez for a 28-7 halftime lead.
“We came out a little bit sluggish,” Reis said. “Hats off to them, they came in ready to roll and they were on top of us.”
Alex Hernandez started his first game since missing two-plus games with a thumb injury on his throwing hand. The thumb was wrapped Friday, and while it may have affected his ball handling (two fumbles, one lost) his passing was on for the most part.
He completed eight of 13 for 122 yards before Ryan Fox replaced him midway through the third quarter. Martinez’s problems were caused by Oakdale’s aggressive pass rush that produced six sacks — two each from Arpoika and C.J. Picinich — for a total loss of 37 yards.
Manteca rushed for only 63 yards not counting the sacks. Fox completed both of his passes to Eric Ceja (five receptions, 106) yards, including a nice 10-yard touchdown strike.
“It’s tough,” Martinez said. “They’re a great team and it was hard to execute the offense against a good defense like that.”
Manteca still has a shot at a title share should it beat 1-8 East Union and Sonora upsets Oakdale next week. Postseason positioning is also at stake, as the Buffaloes will look to fall no further than the fourth seed in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III bracket.
They will also have revenge in mind going into their regular-season finale. Last year, Manteca had its bid for a 10-0 finish ruined by a 10-7 stunner at East Union.
“We hate losing, so obviously we’ll get mad a little bit,” Reis said. “Week 10 last year was an embarrassment so we have something to play for next week.”