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Buffaloes want payback against Tracy
Quarterback Casey Wichman is one of just two starters returning for Tracy High this year. The Bulldogs visit Manteca Friday for their annual rivalry game. - photo by Wayne Thallander
There are three regular-season games that Manteca High’s senior class has mentally earmarked, and the first one is this Friday.

Tracy (0-1) visits Guss Schmiedt Field for the fourth installment of the revived old-school rivalry matchup. And it is the Bulldogs who are responsible for the Manteca seniors’ first loss as high school football players. The Buffaloes’ current big men on campus went 20-0 in the lower levels, and the 2009 defeat was followed by other regular-season heartbreakers against other rivals — Oakdale and Sierra.

“The loss last year stung,” Manteca head coach Eric Reis said. “We didn’t play really well and they had a championship team. We fumbled the opening kickoff, giving them the ball on the 5-yard line. From that point on we were playing catch-up and could never catch up.”

Manteca (1-0) lost to Tracy 35-20 last year after beating the Bulldogs the previous two years. Tracy ended up going 10-0 for the first time since 1986 and won the Division-I San Joaquin Athletic Association’s championship.

Tracy only returns two starters: quarterback Casey Wichman and linebacker-offensive lineman Tyler Huckaby. Wichman threw for 1,344 yards and 17 touchdowns to three interceptions with a 62.3 completion percentage, but he is just as dangerous as a rusher (733 yards, 14 touchdowns).

Senior Dominique Harrison takes over for SJAA Most Valuable Player Depray Celstine as Wichman’s wingman. Harrison displayed his playmaking ability last week with an 83-yard kickoff return, but it was otherwise a lackluster effort from Tracy’s offense.

“Wichman is the man He looks like Tim Tebow — left-handed, big, fast and can throw,” Reis said. “They run a quarterback counter, which can be tough to stop. They also run the option with him, and he is very good at making the reads.

“He has the ability to take games over.”

That wasn’t the case in the Bulldogs’ 26-13 loss last Friday, when Wichman completed just four of 22 passes for 31 yards and two interceptions.

Manteca is coming off an impressive 51-22 win over Galt in its season opener, rushing for 345 yards — 211 of those belonged to Robert Ladiges, who also scored four times — while keeping the defense off balance with its passing game. The Buffaloes continued their streak of season-opening wins, last losing to Johansen, 34-7, in 1996.

Tracy’s defense struggled with Los Banos’ balanced attack last week (172 passing yards, 283 rushing). Still, Reis considers Tracy a dangerous team, and as imposing as his Buffaloes looked in Week 1 he said they have issues of their own to iron out.

“We are working on limiting turnovers,” Reis said. “We had two fumbles and an interception. We’re trying to get our special teams cleaned up, and we are also working on our third-down defense.”

East Union (1-0) at Bear Creek (0-1)
The Lancers earned a huge shot of confidence by edging Beyer, 29-28. It was a bend-don’t-break effort by EU’s defense, which gave up 349 yards but punctuated the win with a last-minute stand that started on its own 4.

Linebacker Dominic Barba  led the way with eight tackles, but his biggest contribution was a 29-yard TD interception return that gave EU a 14-7 lead before halftime. Steven Gigli had two picks.

East Union can turn that confidence into some serious momentum by going undefeated through two weeks for the first time since 2007. How about being 3-0 going into the Valley Oak League season? That hasn’t happened since 1993.

The Lancers are likely worrying about Week 2 first.

Bear Creek lost to Tokay 35-6 last week but showed it was capable of landing the first blow. After battling through a scoreless first quarter, running back Jack Phouminavong scored on a 30-yard pass play from Greg Huntsman.

The fleet-footed Phouminavong ran for 181 yards on 21 carries and scored the first touchdown of the game in last year’s Week-2 meeting, though East Union ended up winning, 32-15.

With only 24 players on the roster, however, Bear Creek may have trouble keeping pace as East Union, which boasts a big and experienced offensive line, tries to establish a running attacking that was limited last week.

Granada (1-0) at Sierra (1-1)
In Week Zero, Enochs’ Herbert Whitehurst torched Sierra’s defense for 151 yards and four touchdowns on 26 rushes. And last week, Davis sophomore Ray Vega ran for 133 yards and two scores on 20 touches.

Sierra now gets to try and hold Granada’s George Atkinson III, rated the top recruit in Northern California by If the name sounds familiar, it should: He is the son former Raiders Pro Bowl defensive back George Atkinson.

But wait, there’s more.

George III has a twin brother. Josh Atkinson is ranked 11th in NorCal, and the tandem starts in the defensive backfield for the Matadors. Both are being pursued by Pac-10 schools.

Granada dispatched Patterson 27-6 last Friday, a game highlighted by a 90-yard touchdown run off a blocked field goal. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound George Atkinson III rushed for over 70 yards and had an 80-yard score called back by a penalty.

Patterson and Sierra share a common opponent in Davis, which was blanked by the former, 35-0, before a second-back comeback nearly shocked the Timberwolves 38-28.

The Matadors are out for revenge after Sierra squeaked out a 27-26 thriller in Livermore last season. But Sierra graduated nine of 11 defensive starters as well as running back Jarrod Daniels and QB Jonathan Davis.