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Buffs victory one for the ages
Manteca, CV combined for playoff record 18 TDs
MHS CVHS10 11-16-13
Manteca playmakers Alex Laurel (5) and Brandon Dabney collaborated on the Buffs record-setting victory on Friday. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

Upon further review, Manteca High’s wild 69-55 win over Central Valley in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs was one for the ages.

The two Division III programs set a section record for points scored in a game, combining for 124 points, 18 touchdowns and 1,230 yards. The combined point total surpassed the mark established last fall when Inderkum topped Sierra 69-47.

The 42 combined first-quarter points and nearly 400 yards of total offense are also believed to be playoff records, according to the section’s press kit.

“It was absolutely nuts,” Manteca coach Eric Reis said, “no doubt about it.”

Manteca (10-1) won the shootout with a balanced offense led by running back Alex Laurel, a home-run threat with every touch, and quarterback Joe Menzel.

Laurel rushed for 256 yards and four touchdowns, while Menzel overcame a shaky start with back-to-back touchdown throws to Brandon Dabney in the second quarter.

Menzel very nearly had a third TD toss in the fourth quarter when his pass over the middle flicked off Laurel’s fingertips. Menzel showed his handle of the offense on the play, changing the call at the line of scrimmage after reading Central Valley’s coverage and pressure.

The senior quarterback finished 8 of 13 for 203 yards. He also threw an interception, just his fourth of the season.

He and Laurel were just two of many offensive stars in this fast-action playoff opener.

Central Valley had two players rush for more than 200 yards – running back Ja’Quan Gardner (373 yards) and quarterback Kendel Johnson (214).

Manteca running back Michael Gonzalez also eclipsed the 100-yard mark on just six carries, two of which went for touchdowns.

“Our offense is clicking on all cylinders,” two-way lineman Billy Sharmoug said on Friday night. “They made us look good. They score the touchdowns … they get the girlfriends.”

The second-seeded Buffaloes welcome No. 10 Casa Roble (8-3) this Friday, but don’t expect another track meet. While the Buffalo faithful savored the program’s first playoff victory since 2007, defensive coordinator Rick James wore a furrowed brow and a bad attitude.

He gave credit to Gardner, lauding him as the best high school running back he’s ever seen live, but still expected a better performance out of his defensive unit.

“Defensively, we want to get back in attack mode,” Reis said. “But that’s what takes Gardner so good. He makes you passive.

“I think I know our guys pretty well, and I think they’re pride was down a little bit. We expect them to rise up and show what they’re about.”

The Rams are equipped to score points by the bushel, as well.

Quarterback Peyton Wilfley has passed for more than 2,600 yards and 28 touchdowns, targeting seniors Angel Tenorio (49 catches, 772 yards, seven touchdowns) and Jake Romine (50/645/10) in Casa Roble’s spread offense.

Wilfley was 13 of 17 for 130 yards and three total touchdowns – two passing, one rushing – in a not-so-surprising 34-23 win over No. 7 Rosemont last week.

Wilfley is also the Rams’ second-leading rushing, tucking the ball 84 times for 498 yards. Senior Ron Quinn leads the Rams with 112 carries for 756 yards.

The 5-foot-10 senior enjoyed a career evening against Rosemont, toting the ball a season-high 25 times for 157 yards and a score. It was just his third 100-yard game of the season and first in three weeks.

“The spread comes in so many different flavors. Central Valley’s spread was a different flavor than this,” Reis said. “You look at Casa Roble; they’re a Division II team that’s slid down. They’ve played against some bigger schools, and if you look at their bodies, they look like a bigger school.”

Friday’s matchup at Guss Schmiedt Field is a rematch of a 2009 first-round game won by Casa Roble. That loss was the first in four straight first-round defeats for the Buffaloes.

The good news: Manteca’s defense has already tasted this flavor of spread. The Buffaloes blanked Marcus Moore and Weston Ranch 79-8 and then intercepted Jake Pruitt twice in a 35-14 win over Sierra.

“They’re very, very similar to Sierra. Eerily similar,” Reis said. “They run a lot of the same routes. The QB is a big kid and accurate. His receivers are big, strong and tall like Sierra’s.”

 Hands team

The last time Manteca High faced Central Valley the kick and punt return units stole the show. This time around, the Buffaloes’ hands team received a virtual high-five from Reis.

Carl Chandler and Dabney covered up second-half onside kicks. Neither drive resulted in points for the Buffaloes, but each successfully chewed up game clock and kept Gardner and Johnson off the field.

Brandon Ramirez also recovered an onside kick in the first half.

“I thought that was huge,” Reis said. “Special teams was a big part of that game.”

Dabney’s recovery with about 8 minutes left set up an eight-play drive that ended with a controversial incompletion call on fourth-and-8. Nick Gatehouse appeared to reel in a pass along the sideline and turn up field when the ball came loose. The officials ruled it was an incompletion and Central Valley ball, rather than a first down.

Worry not.

Three plays later, linebacker Chase McKee would ice the victory with a 69-yard scoop and score.