MODESTO — Manteca didn’t make crucial mistakes this time and even won the turnover battle against Central Catholic, but the result was the same Friday at David Patton Field.
Led by running backs Dawaiaan McNeely and Kyle Jacklich, the Raiders overcame two lost fumbles and 12 penalties to survive a scare and hold on for a 35-28 victory — their fifth in a row against the reigning Sac-Joaquin Section Division III champion.
The Buffaloes (0-1, 2-3 overall) never trailed by more than two scores, and though they did not turn the ball over in the Valley Oak League-opening slugfest they were able to stay within reach despite committing 15 penalties of their own.
It was an improved effort overall compared to past duels with the parochial power, which had grown accustomed to taking advantage of the Buffaloes’ untimely miscues to turn competitive games into routs.
“Honestly, with the athletes they have you can’t make any mistakes — even the little things will cost you,” Manteca coach Mark Varnum said. “What I was most proud of was we forced them into a lot of uncharacteristic mistakes. We stood toe-to-toe with them.”
The 6-foot-2, 206-pound McNeely plowed his way to 216 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries, while Jacklich added 83 yards and three scores on 16 attempts.
Trailing 28-21, Manteca had a chance to tie it midway through the fourth quarter after Dane Juarez missed a 36-yard field wide left but went three-and-out on its next offensive series. Jacklich later put it out of reach with a 1-yard touchdown with 2:16 remaining.
“We knew their backs are really good and they have a good offensive line, so it just came down to who wanted it more and who had the heart,” Manteca linebacker Nick Creighton said. “We practiced all week for it. We were prepared, but they have some great backs.”
Manteca quarterback Ryan Ward enjoyed a career night, completing 24 of 42 passes for 332 yards and four touchdowns. Central Catholic’s Dalton Durossette, a transfer from Ceres who beat out Mantecan Kyle Jackson for the starting quarterback spot, was 6 of 9 for 147 yards.
“What’s funny is he’s still learning,” Varnum said of Ward. “Some of the easy stuff he makes it look hard, but some of the impossible stuff he makes look easy. Every week he gets better and better. I ride him hard and coach (Jason) Dukes rides him hard, but he’s producing like crazy.”
Jacob DeJesus, who started at tailback in place of injured Trabron Russell, was held to a team-high 24 yards and six carries — the Buffs had just 32 rushing yards in all — but made nine catches for 160 yards and two touchdowns. Jorge Cedano caught the other two TD passes, finishing with 120 yards on 11 receptions.
Cedano beat McNeely on a jumpball in the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown with 16 seconds to go but drew his second unsportsmanlike penalty on the drive. As a result, he was ejected and will miss the Oakdale game in two weeks following a bye.
Manteca attempted an onside kick that was recovered by Central Catholic (1-0, 4-1).
“Everybody on this team cares,” Ward said. “We can be down four scores and we’ll still try to come back. We know we’re a strong team. I think this will boost our confidence the rest of the way.”
The Buffaloes defense gave up 431 yards but did have its share of highlights. Marc Buenrostro twice sacked Durossette, one of which caused a fumble recovered by sophomore Dom Neuharth. Neuharth also had a sack, and safety Jose Ceja recovered another fumble for a turnover.
“Losing sucks, but when you take a team like that down to the wire and stand toe-to-toe with them for 48 minutes, regardless of the score we have to feel good about what we’re doing and where we’re heading,” Varnum said.
Manteca 0 7 7 14 — 28
C. Catholic 7 7 14 7 — 35
C—Kyle Jacklich 43 run (Dane Juarez kick), 9:19.
M—Jorge Cedano 20 pass from Ryan Ward (Kevin Thornburg kick), 10:41.
C—Dawaiian McNeely 11 run (Juarez kick), 2:35.
M—Jacob DeJesus 16 pass from Ryan Ward (Thornburg kick), 9:51.
C—Jacklich 1 run (Juarez kick), 7:15.
C—McNeely 31 run (Juarez kick), 5:29.
M—DeJesus 26 pass from Ward (Thornburg kick), 10:14.
C—Jacklich 1 run (Juarez kick), 2:16.
M—Cedano 15 pass from Ward (Thornburg kick), 0:16.