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Special teams energize Manteca in lopsided shutout
Manteca running back Angel Garay follows lead blocker Chris Ortiz through the Lathrop defense during the Buffaloes homecoming romp Friday. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

Manteca’s Nick Creighton did what he was supposed to do, and he did it like he was taught.
Trabron Russell ran the second half kickoff back for a Buffaloes touchdown Friday against Lathrop to start the momentum in Manteca’s direction, and Creighton saw that it stayed on the Manteca side of the field for good when he forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff for Dominic Day to recover. Seth Owings scored from 4 yards out on the next play, and the Buffaloes never looked back in a 50-0 blowout of the Spartans for a Valley Oak League homecoming win at Guss Schmiedt Field.
“I try to do what I can to be the first one down there,” Creighton said. “The ball was a little loose so I just grabbed it, pulled it out and did everything that coach James and all the coaches taught us to do.”
Lathrop (1-1 VOL, 2-3 overall) trailed 21-0 at the end of the first half and was still in the game when the two Manteca touchdowns in 19 seconds to start the third quarter flattened any Spartans hopes.
“That took all the air out of us,” Lathrop coach Joe Pirillo said about the start of the second half. “That’s what it did. Those two key mistakes to start the second half blew the game wide open for them.”
In addition to his 89-yard kick-off return to start the second half, Russell scored on runs of 2 and 16 yards.
“We won this game with a good team effort,” Russell said. “We all did it together. The line put the holes there and I had to run through them. They told me the holes were going to be there and they were, so I had to follow them and believe in them.”
Ferrin Manuleleua was a force for the Manteca defense, which held Spartans standout running back Michael Ramos to 34 yards on 20 carries.
“The defensive line did a good job of penetration,” Manuleleua said. “And that freed me up to be able to shoot the gap when I saw it open up with the running back.”
Buffaloes coach Eric Reis was pleased with his team’s defensive effort. Manteca (1-1, 4-1) held Lathrop to 25 yards in the first half and 62 total yards on the night.
“I was happy with our defense,” Reis said. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for Ramos. He is a good running back and we have been battling him for three years. We game planned everything to stop him because we know how good he is.
“I was happy with that part of it, but we were sloppy on offense. We kept trying to make hay-makers instead of taking the easy ones. That was frustrating, but then a good halftime speech and the special teams to start off the second half like they did — that was huge.”
Gino Campiotti (four carries, 43 yards; 8 of 18 passing, 107 yards) ran for a 19-yard score and hit Presley Keltner with a 22-yard touchdown pass. Jorge Cedano came in for Campiotti in the second half and ran for a 19-yard touchdown and Chris Ortiz added 41 yards on seven carries.
Russell had 132 yards on 13 carries.
“I am super happy for Tra,” Reis said of Russell. “We haven’t been able to get him going and tonight we were able to. This was the first game where we were really able to put it together for him.
“And then there was Ferrin (Manuleleua) on defense. Every time there was a wallop out there it was him.”
While the homecoming win was nice, perennial powerhouse Oakdale is up next for Manteca on the road.  
“There are always so many distractions with homecoming,” Reis said. “There is just so much stuff, so for us to be able to win 50-0 on our homecoming, we will take that for sure. We have to enjoy tonight because we obviously know what monster we have ahead.”