It only took Manteca 3 minutes and 40 seconds to start celebrating its first touchdown, but Weston Ranch had no desire to be a Homecoming blowout. The Cougars showed a bit of resiliency yet still fell to Manteca High 34-6 Friday.
Both teams took the field for their second Valley Oak League contest, and Manteca got off on the right foot with a nine-play, 77-yard drive culminating with a 1-yard Eddie Smith touchdown run. Manteca wouldn’t take long for its second score, jumping out to a 14-0 lead on a 10-yard Ryan Fox touchdown pass to Alex Laurel.
Instead of allowing things to get out of control the Cougars responded when Alex Esan raced 83 yards for a touchdown on the ensuing kickoff, halting Manteca’s plans to blow the Cougars out and opening a dose of hope amongst the Cougar faithful.
“That kickoff return had an impact,” Manteca head coach Eric Reis said. “We’re ahead 14-0 and kind of laying the screws on them and then you give up that one and it hurt. Unfortunately, that was a line-drive kick.
“You give them that with their kind of speed and it’s trouble, It gave them a bit of momentum.”
The return score changed the atmosphere of the contest until the second half. Weston Ranch’s defensive unit put together a solid performance, but even holding Manteca to one score each in the third and fourth were too much for a Cougar offensive unit that didn’t score.
Manteca (2-0, 3-2 overall) did just enough to keep a firm grasp on the victory, but the reality of the contest was Weston Ranch put together a 12-play drive inside the Manteca redzone to open the second half. It had five first downs, over 70 yards, but their chances of making it a one-score game ended with a second down interception.
“Overall, I am encouraged by what I saw,” Weston Ranch head coach Mike Hale said. “Defensively, we played stellar but we still have mistakes that hurt ourselves. I think defensively, we’re in the game with whoever we match up against.
“Offensively, we were able to move the ball against a good football team; I’m encouraged for the upcoming weeks.”
Smith led the Buffaloes with 98 yards on just 19 carries, scoring on runs of 1, 4 and 6 yards. Quarterback Fox threw for 92 yards and rushed for 93. The majority of the 93 came on a 73 yard rush from the Manteca 7-yard—line which set up the Buffaloes final score. Fullback Paul Paulino bruised his way to 59 yards and a score, setting up a Smith score with an 18-yard burst. Smith’s three scores give him 13 on the season.
“You know what, it was a nice win for us,” Smith said. “We played as a team, we ran the ball hard and we got some carries from our full back. It doesn’t bother me when I don’t have many carries.
“We ran strong and played tough defense tonight.”
The Buffaloes will try and make it three straight in VOL play when they meet up with the Sierra Timberwolves Friday.