Manteca may not have started very impressively Friday night, but once the No. 1 Buffaloes got rolling they were unstoppable. Four of their six scoring drives totaled 2 minutes, 14 seconds on the way to a 52-0 shellacking of fourth-seeded Los Banos in semifinal action of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoffs at Guss Schmiedt Field.
“We were focused tonight,” Manteca coach Eric Reis said. “Coach (Dustin) Caropreso is a very good coach and we have a lot of respect for Los Banos – they were a longtime VOL school and we took them very seriously. We did not overlook them tonight and we played up to Manteca standards.
“It took a while to get it going but once we got it rolling and once it got going we weren’t stopping. We are proud of the boys. To get a shutout is huge, especially in the semis. Back to the section finals, baby.”
Justin Kakala (sack) had the defensive play of the night for the Buffaloes when he broke through the Tigers’ line midway through the third quarter and swatted down a punt, returning it for the first touchdown of his high school career.
“That felt great,” Kakala said. “The whole game we were trying to focus on having us penetrate through the line and get to the ball and I did that.
“My coaches told me to try to block the ball if I could and once I blocked it I wasn’t really sure if I could pick the ball or not but all my teammates were telling me to grab it and run with it so I just jogged into the end zone. It took me a while to process it.”
Kakala was just one of the defensive standouts for Manteca (11-1). Vincent Ferro had an interception, Joey Goodman forced a fumble, Shahram Reese and Angel Garay both recovered a fumble, James Thomas had eight tackles and Michael Sarmento six.
“I was just doing what I was told,” Thomas said. “Which was to read the guards. I read my guard and when he would pull I would rush and I just found the quarterback.”
After going three-and-out on the first two Buffaloes drives with Manteca gaining just five yards, Gino Campiotti directed one of the longest Manteca scoring drives of the night in 3:20 capped with a 1-yard Kameron Beamon touchdown plunge for a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter.
“We started off a little slow,” Beamon said. “But then we started hitting on all cylinders like coach wanted us to. And then everything started coming along and we came away with the win.”
Campiotti (5 of 9 passing, 124 yards, two touchdowns) was just warming up. In the second quarter he directed two scoring drives that totaled just 50 seconds – one of 52 yards in three plays capped by a 5-yard Campiotti run and the other following Ferro’s interception consisted of one play and 9 seconds with Campiotti hitting Joel Olmos on a 31-yard touchdown pass for a 22-0 lead with 24 seconds left in the first half.
“I was slow at the beginning,” Campiotti said. “That is a problem because it starts with me getting it to other people but we turned that around pretty quick.
“Our line played so hard all night. That’s what made me feel the worse on the first two drives because I did not play up to expectations because I knew they were working hard. But from the third drive on we played great football.”
Any thoughts Los Banos (8-4) had of a comeback went away in the third quarter. Just 22 seconds after a safety when the Tigers punter kicked the ball out of his own end zone following a botched snap, Beamon scored from 32 yards out. Manteca added two more touchdowns in the period on Kakala’s fumble return and a 16-yard touchdown run by Seth Owings. Manteca put the exclamation point on the contest late in the game with a 22-yard scoring pass from Jorge Cedano – a recent call-up from the sophomore squad – to Charles Mitchell.
The Buffaloes will face No. 2 Placer of Auburn on Saturday, Nov. 26, at 6 p.m. at Lincoln High’s Spanos Stadium in Stockton for the blue banner. The winner earns a berth in a CIF State NorCal Bowl Game with the division to be determined.