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Manteca unable to overcome backfield tandem, turnovers
Photo by WAYNE THALLANDER Manteca cornerback Zion Allen breaks up the pass intended for Central Catholic’s Brooklyn Cheek.


Manteca 10 8 8 7 — 33

C. Catholic 14 21 7 14 — 56


First quarter

C — Aiden Taylor 52 run (Anthony Wildenberg kick), 9:55.

M — Blake Nichelson 53 run (Eduardo Zambrano kick), 8:59.

C — Jaelen Nichols 16 pass from Julian Lopez (Wildenberg kick), 6:59.

M — Zambrano 24 field goal, 1:58.


Second quarter

C — Taylor 14 run (Wildenberg kick), 7:50.

M — Nichelson 36 run (Garrison Reis run), 5:58.

C — Lopez 11 pass from Tyler Wentworth (Wildenberg kick), 4:57.

C — Taylor 25 run (Wildenberg kick), 0:23.2.


Third quarter

C — Lopez 1 run (Wildenberg kick), 7:57.

M — Blake Nichelson 1 run (Lyon Colon pass from Hudson Wyatt), 5:16.


Fourth quarter

C — Lopez 26 run (Wildenberg kick), 11:51.

M — Colon 74 run (Zambrano kick), 5:31.

C — Taylor 2 run (Wildenberg kick), 1:27.

MODESTO — Manteca committed four turnovers and had no answer for Central Catholic’s powerful 1-2 backfield punch of Julian Lopez and Aiden Taylor in a 56-33 loss Friday at David Patton Memorial Field.

It’s the first loss of the season for the Buffaloes (3-1, 7-1 overall), while Central Catholic (4-0, 7-1) is well positioned to capture sole possession of the Valley Oak League title. The Raiders are now 7-0 against Manteca since joining the league in 2014.

The good news for the Buffs is they can still attain the top seed for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs, but they’ll need to get past dangerous Kimball and Oakdale teams over the final two weeks of the regular season.

“We’ve been here before,” Varnum said. “We’ve won three Section titles after unfortunately dropping one to these guys. Sometimes it acts as that catalyst to push us to the next step and makes us clean up what we need to clean up. Hopefully it does again.”

Central Catholic proved itself to be head and shoulders above the rest in the southern half of the SJS with a third straight dominant performance against a top league opponent. The Raiders’ punishing backs led the way, accounting for 430 of the team’s 489 yards. Taylor amassed 227 yards and four touchdowns on 16 rushes, while Lopez ran for 175 yards on 19 carries while playing a part in four touchdowns — two rushing, one passing, one receiving.

“They’re bulldozers, but it was a lot of missed assignments and bad tackling — stuff we have to fix to get to where we want to be,” Varnum said.

Manteca countered with its own dynamic duo of Lyon Colon and Blake Nichelson. Colon, who has been battling injuries much of the season, flashed his normal explosiveness Friday and finished with 194 yards and a touchdown on carries. Nichelson, the Section’s leading scorer, rushed 12 times for 150 yards and three touchdowns but lost two second-half fumbles — one caused by Taylor — that dashed any hope for a comeback. Nichelson also came up with four catches for 70 yards.

Colon provided a spark in the third quarter when Manteca trailed 42-18 and faced a third-and-23 from its own 7-yard line. The senior speedster busted loose for a 91-yard dash that set up a short-yardage score for Nichelson. Colon then caught a pass from Hudson Wyatt on the two-point conversion.

In the fourth quarter, Colon struck again with a 74-yard jaunt to the end zone.

“Last couple weeks I wasn’t 100-percent go, but now I feel like I’m getting there,” Colon said. “Hopefully it just keeps getting better and better from here.”

Colon, Nichelson and Wyatt all transferred from Central Catholic. Wyatt, playing his third game for Manteca, completed 5 of 11 passes for 84 yards. His last two pass attempts were intercepted by Brooklyn Cheek and Jaelen Nichols.

Manteca’s usually-stout defense could not get a stop in the first half as Central scored on its first five drives and carried a 35-18 lead into halftime. In the second half, the offense could not sustain drives because of penalties and giveaways.

“Anytime we had a chance to seize the momentum a turnover would happen or a dumb penalty would happen,” Varnum said. “That’s on us. Like we said all week, can’t make those kind of mistakes to have a chance against a team like this. We put ourselves behind the 8-ball early and couldn’t get ourselves back into it.”