Kimball 0 0 7 0 — 7
Manteca 15 7 20 0 — 42
M — Jhadis Luckey 3 run (Matthew Kong kick), 9:01.
M — Nikko Juarez 13 run (Garrison Reis kick), 5:41.
M — Bryson Davis 5 run (Kong kick), 5:35.
M — Carson Sablan 23 interception return (Kong kick), 9:39.
K — Noah Reffell 46 fumble return (Jeremiah Agapie kick), 7:15.
M — Luckey 31 run (kick failed), 4:46.
M — Maava Tialavea 27 run (Kong kick), 2:17.
Bryson Davis is back.
And his three young backfield running mates are here to stay.
They each had their moments in Manteca’s 42-7 homecoming win over Kimball. It was also the first Valley Oak League game of the season for both squads.
“It’s like a four-headed dog, you know?” sophomore fullback Maava Tialavea said. “Bryson is leading us, but there are two other dogs right behind him.”
Davis missed the Buffaloes’ last four games with an elbow injury. He powered Manteca, now 4-2, to a 42-35 road win against Vista del Lago of Folsom in the season opener, but his 325-yard, four-touchdown outburst was costly — he tore the ulnar collateral ligament and common flexor tendon on his left elbow while also sustaining muscle strains.
The 6-foot-1, 215-pound power back received a protective brace this week and spearheaded the ground attack Friday with 14 rushes, 130 yards and a touchdown.
“It was hard just sitting on the sideline watching us lose a few games, but it was great for the games we won,” Davis said. “I’m just glad to be back. It was amazing. I missed it a lot.”
Two underclassmen have emerged in recent weeks in Davis’ absence, and they’ve gotten a chance to shine in his absence. Freshman Nikko Juarez, called up from the JV last week, contributed 94 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries, while sophomore Jhadis Luckey added 42 yards and two touchdowns on six attempts. Luckey also had an interception.
Manteca totaled 331 rushing yards and didn’t attempt a single pass.
“When our line is playing like that, and we can roll the backs in tonight like we did with Luckey, Nikko and Bryson coming back we’re tough to stop,” Manteca coach Mark Varnum said. “For (Juarez) and Luckey, what better guy to play with than Bryson Davis? They get to learn from one of the best backs around. As he gets back to 100%, they’re doing a great job of filling in.”
Then there’s Tialavea, the physical 5-10, 200-pound fullback who got to showcase his abilities as a ball carrier. He finished with four rushes and 61 yards, bursting 27 yards up the middle for his second touchdown of the season in the third quarter. That was the final score of the game, which induced the running clock for the last period.
“We keep telling him, ‘Hey, we’re going to pay you,’” Varnum said. “’The better you block, the more you’re going to touch the ball.’ He blocked his butt off tonight, and popped that big (touchdown run) in the end there.”
Defensively, Manteca pitched a shutout.
Kimball’s only TD came off Noah Reffell’s 46-yard strip-and-score in the third quarter, making it 29-7.
The Buffaloes had their own defensive touchdown earlier in the half, as Carson Sablan returned an interception 23 yards to the end zone.
Luckey had his interception in the third quarter, as well, a spectacular diving grab in the middle of the field. Cornerback Quinn Martinez, Sablan and Luckey are all sophomores in Manteca’s defensive backfield that is led by second-year juniors Chris Chavez at free safety and Eddie Anthony at cornerback.
“We’re young, but we’re learning,” Sablan said. “Today, we showed out, and I think we did pretty good.”
Manteca was able to limit Kimball’s sophomore dual-threat quarterback, Josiah Wilson. He rushed for minus-14 yards and completed nine of 20 passes for 48 yards and two picks. The Jaguars (2-4) were held to 154 yards.
The Buffs forced three turnovers and should have had a fourth. In the first quarter, Chavez forced a fumble on a third-and-long screen play, and lineman Joshua Mellion was able to secure the loose ball. In the third, Isaiah White recovered a fumble after Kaden MacDannald jarred the ball loose on a third-down carry from Jaden Ramirez, but Kimball retained possession. It was fourth down anyway, and it did little to mar a near-perfect outing for the defense.
“They played lights out,” Varnum said.