Manteca had a tough enough time stopping Dauson Booker and visiting Central Catholic in a highly-anticipated showdown between Valley Oak League titans Friday at Guss Schmiedt Field.
The Buffaloes only made matters worse by stopping themselves.
Plagued by costly mistakes from start to finish, including three goal-line turnovers, Manteca dropped the league opener 31-14 while Booker bruised, battered and broke away for to 212 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 24 carries.
Central Catholic (1-0, 3-0 overall) has won all four of its meetings with Manteca (0-1, 3-1) since returning to the VOL. This one pitted the Raiders’ physical running game against Manteca’s prolific aerial assault that was often done in by its own mishaps.
“We just couldn’t grab the momentum,” Manteca coach Eric Reis said. “We kept making goofs, for sure. You can’t make so many mistakes and have so many penalties. You can’t blame the officials, you blame it on us.”
While Central’s defense made the big plays when needed, its clock-chewing offense — which marched 65 yards on 16 plays in 8 minutes, 32 seconds on its first drive punctuated by Kyle Jackson’s 1-yard plunge on fourth-and-goal — did well to keep Manteca quarterback Gino Campiotti on the sideline.
Campiotti accounted for the bulk of the Manteca offense, completing 11 of 22 passes for 162 yards and a touchdown. His final six attempts were off the mark, including an interception made by Emilio Guajardo in the end zone with 6:36 remaining. He was later sacked by 6-foot-3, 220-pound defensive tackle Steven Jackson on the Buffaloes’ last play from scrimmage. Campiotti also ran for 49 yards on eight rushes.
The tone was set at the start. Manteca went three-and-out on its opening series, and on the third play of Central’s impressive first drive Justin Kakala, the Buffs’ standout two-way lineman who has committed to Harvard, was ejected from the game for delivering a two-handed blow to Booker’s head.
Manteca was already without one of its top playmakers in Carter Williams, who hurt his leg during Manteca’s Week 1 win over Christian Brothers.
“You think about the absolute studs who didn’t play and we were still this good,” Reis said. “I’m actually kind of encouraged by what I saw. We had some puppies jump in there tonight and fought tooth and nail. I think we’ll be fine.”
Campiotti still had little trouble moving the offense, and he hit Jacob DeJesus on a slant pattern for an 11-yard touchdown that tied it 7-7 early in the second quarter. The Raiders countered with Booker’s highlight-worthy 50-yard scamper in which he plowed his way through several tackles near the line of scrimmage and in the open field.
Manteca was on its way to tying it back up after Campiotti’s 43-yard strike to Matthew Ender set the Buffs up in the red zone. From the 6, Campiotti had a pass dropped in the end zone, and one play later Vincent Ferro lost a fumble recovered by Guajardo.
Guajardo then got to shine on offence, as he was on the receiving end of a 32-yard pass from Jackson that gave Central Catholic a 21-7 lead it carried into halftime.
Jackson, a sophomore who lives in Manteca, completed all four of his passes for 71 yards in the first half of his first career varsity start. His lone pass in the second half was picked off by Ferro.
“He made a lot of great plays and tried to that fit one in, but that was a great effort for his first start ever,” Central Catholic coach Roger Canepa said. “Our guys just play hard. We’re getting better every week and making plays.
“(Manteca’s) a great football team. They lost one of their better players early and that hurt them, but to go on the road twice and beat St. Mary’s and Manteca, that would be tough for anybody.”
The Buffaloes further made it tough on themselves in the third quarter, which opened with a bang. Rayshon Dozier administered a punishing hit on Dawaiian McNeely on the kickoff to give Manteca a huge emotional lift, but it quickly fizzled out as Booker jolted 80 yards for another score on the second play of the half.
Manteca struck back with Campiotti’s 31-yard touchdown run, and Ferro came up with his interception from the Buffaloes 17 and returned it to the Central Catholic 33.
The tide quickly turned back in the Raiders’ favor on the ensuing play. Campiotti swung a backwards pass to Ender, who then flung it to Presley Keltner down the left sideline. Central Catholic cornerback Adrian Cuevas wrapped him up as they crossed the 5-yard line and was able to jar the ball loose. Both scrambled for the ball, which Keltner momentarily got his hands on before Cuevas knocked it through the back of the end zone for a touchback.
The Raiders then used 12 running plays in 7 minutes before David Gallegos nailed a 26-yard field goal for the final points of the game.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Reis said. “Three (would-be) touchdowns and an ejection of a player with no warning. It was on us fast, no doubt about it.
“It will refocus us,” Reis added. “I don’t like losing, but I like where we’re headed. I think we showed some signs of where we can get.”