Menlo-Atherton players sprinted off Coach Parks Field to celebrate with fans following their 49-21 win over Manteca in the CIF State Division III-AA Northern California Regional Bowl Game on Friday.
Adhir Ravipati remained behind to congratulate the visiting Buffaloes on their season, but in doing so he searched out No. 3. The second-year Bears coach found his target, Manteca quarterback Gino Campiotti, offered words of encouragement while slapping his shoulder pads.
“The only thing I told him was to keep working hard, because you’re a junior and you have a lot of talent and ability and good things can happen. They have a good team coming back and he’s a heck of a player.”
Campiotti completed 21 of 38 for 310 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions in the defeat, but Ravipati came away impressed with the 6-foot-3, 185-pounder.
“He reminds me of Brett Favre,” he said. “He’s a gunslinger back there. He’s the kind of kid who is always going to keep his eyes downfield, slip out of tackles and he’s got a big arm.”
Ravipati also gave a nod to inside linebacker Ferrin Manuleleua and 6-4, 270-pound two-way lineman Justin Kakala, calling them “monsters.”
“The fact that they’re juniors, I’m very glad we probably won’t have to play them next year because those guys are studs,” Ravipati.
Expectations will be high for the 2017 Buffaloes, and understandably so. Many of their key players are coming back, including sophomore defensive lineman Noe Salidvar, from a 12-2 season highlighted by a Valley Oak League co-championship and Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV banner — the program’s fifth.
They’ll be bolstered by a sophomore class that went 9-1, and the freshman team finished 10-0. The lower-level standouts joined the varsity for the postseason run, and a handful of them even got playing time.
“Our kids got the taste of the state playoffs and it’s something we can work towards,” Manteca coach Eric Reis said.
The goal now is to scarf down the whole enchilada.
The Buffaloes are 0-2 in NorCal bowls, losing the Division II regional to Enterprise of Redding in 2013. They’ll likely be favored again to earn another bowl bid next season.
Junior receiver Presley Keltner gave Manteca a glimpse into the future on Friday, erupting for 122 yards and two touchdowns on four catches. He more than doubled his production in a season dominated by seniors Jose Garcia (951 yards, 10 TDs) and Joel Olmos (685 yards, nine TDs).
“On the biggest stage for Keltner to do that, that bodes well for us in the future,” Reis said. “A junior stepping up and making plays, I’m really excited for him.”
All of his receptions came at key moments. His 20-yard catch set up Campiotti’s 56-yard strike to Olmos on the next play, tying the game at 7-7 late in the first quarter. In the third, with Manteca trailing 35-7, Keltner sparked the Buffs on back-to-back plays with 47- and 35-yard receptions — the latter of which went for six. Then early in the fourth, he gave Manteca a glimmer of hope with a 20-yard touchdown grab, making it 35-21.
“I talked to him a minute ago and we’re going to get to work,” Campiotti said after the game. “He’s going to do whatever he can to be the best receiver Manteca’s ever had, and after tonight it’s very possible. He showed something special. The guy has incredible heart and he wanted the ball, and that’s a receiver quality.”
Defensively, Manteca returns all three of its starting lineman along with Manuleleua in the front seven, and what was once an unproven secondary becomes a strength of the team. Kyle Rachels picked off his third pass of the postseason at Menlo-Atherton, while Vincent Ferro emerged as a playmaking safety who led the way with six interceptions and was among the team’s top tacklers.
“We have a lot of talent coming back,” Campiotti said. “This isn’t our last one. We’ll be back here.”