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Cedano thriving after changing positions
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Cedano secures the catch in front of Oakdale defensive back Lakota Giles. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

Jorge Cedano loves the spotlight.

And so, on the big stage, he took the opportunity to do a little dance on the field in the waning seconds of Manteca’s 34-17 victory over Valley Oak League rival Oakdale in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III title game Friday at Alex G. Spanos Stadium.

“I have three (postseason titles) now, but this one I actually had a part in it,” the brash junior wide out said. “It feels great. There’s no feeling like this.”

Cedano was brought up from the sophomore squad for last season’s run to the SJS Division IV banner, and as a freshman he was along for the ride when the Buffaloes’ boys basketball team captured the CIF State Division III championship.

These moments are nothing new for his family. His cousin, Jose Garcia, was Manteca’s top receiver a year ago, while uncle Ruben Cedano was the star quarterback for back-to-back section championship teams in 2005-06. Manteca now has six SJS crowns in all, five under 16th-year head coach Eric Reis.

The younger Cedano is leaving his own mark at Manteca. Last Friday, he finished with team-highs five catches for 67 yards and two touchdowns — he could have had four TDs if not for a pair of drops in the front of the goal line.

“What I love about him is his competitive spirit,” Reis said. “He wants to win very badly. He had the drops but he was able to put those behind him and make plays for us.”

Cedano’s place on the team is much different than in was at the start of the season. A quarterback at the lower levels, he entered 2017 as the back-up to third-year starter Gino Campiotti. 

“He’s one of our surprise stories of the year,” Reis said. “He’s been a quarterback his whole life and never played receiver. We told him you’re too good of an athlete, we need to get you on the field. He’s a guy who does not like to sit. Once he got his chance to shine he took full advantage of it.”

Cedano said the transition wasn’t so tough.

“I play basketball, and all this is is just basketball moves for me,” Cedano said. “You just got to get to the open spot and he’ll get the ball to me.” 

An early-season injury to another receiver turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the Buffaloes (12-2), who host Saint Francis (9-4) of Mountain View for the CIF State Northern California Division II-A Bowl Game this Saturday. 

Back in Week 1, Carter Williams — an electric receiver who transferred from Beyer — went down with a leg injury on the second play of Manteca’s thrilling 36-35 win at Christian Brothers. Cedano was called into action and recorded his first two receptions in that contest, and he didn’t look back after a six-catch, 76-yard breakthrough against Central Catholic three weeks later.

“He’s so good,” Campiotti said. “I think earlier in the year I should have given him more chances. Later in the year we really started to click. He’s had a touchdown reception in the last four games and we’re clicking right now. He’s going off at the right time.”

Cedano is Manteca’s third-leading receiver with 39 catches, 543 yards and six touchdowns. With his emergence, the Buffaloes now have an embarrassment of riches at the receiver spots. The wiry 6-foot-1 Cedano makes good use of his long arms and body control on jump-ball tosses — a perfect complement to Manteca’s speedier receivers, namely Presley Keltner, sophomore Jacob DeJesus and Williams. 

Tight end Kyle Rachels and Matthew Ender also made their presence felt on Friday. Rachels had a 12-yard touchdown catch on fourth-and one and later broke a 59-yard score that helped the Buffaloes mount a staggering 20-0 lead in the opening quarter. Then in the fourth, Ender put it out of a reach with 3:31 to go on a sequence in which both quarterback and receiver put their athletic abilities on display in the third-and-14 play. Campiotti evaded a pass rush, going from left to right before hooking up with Ender, who then juked a defensive back near the first-down marker and raced to the end zone for a 23-yard touchdown.

“Our receiving corps is the best I’ve ever seen,” Campiotti said. “I have five different guys, maybe six, that I can go to at any time and know they’re going to make a big play.”

Change has certainly been good for Cedano and the Buffs. Although his on-field connection with Campiotti is a recent development, he said it’s a product of their close-knit relationship that blossomed as lower-level teammates on the basketball team.

“This all started a couple of years back, ever since I came in freshman year me and Gino have just been best friends,” Cedano said. “They said ‘Alright Jorge, we’re going to put you in a different spot. We’re going to put you at receiver this year.’ I said ‘Alright, it’s good. Gino, you have to get me the ball, though.’”