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Newcomer Hudson Wyatt keyed Manteca’s late comeback win over East Union
Bulletin sports fall 2021
Manteca quarterback Hudson Wyatt scans the field from the pocket last Friday against East Union. - photo by Wayne Thallander

Hudson Wyatt had a mostly quiet debut as a Buffalo last Friday when Manteca overcame a 20-point second-half deficit for a wild 40-34 overtime win over rival East Union.

Blake Nichelson was at the center of the walk-off win, as he got a hand on Luke Weaver’s short pass for a pick-six highlight making the rounds on social media. It was the last of his five touchdowns during this homecoming classic, and that’s not all — Nichelson was also in on four sacks on defense and accounted for 224 of the offense’s 342 yards from scrimmage.

As for Wyatt, it was, by his own admission, an uneven first appearance as Manteca’s starting quarterback, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t play an important role in the comeback. Overall, he completed 11 of 23 passes for 204 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.

Any hope for a comeback seemed bleak after he was picked off by Kainoa Ontai near midfield with 9:41 left in the game. Manteca trailed 34-20, and its perfect start to the season was in jeopardy.

“I missed a lot of throws,” Wyatt said after the game. “I just had to realize we have the athletes to make plays. I just had trust in my team and that’s all I need, honestly, but it did

Bulletin sports fall 2021
Manteca quarterback Hudson Wyatt scrambles out of the pocket for a key 8-yard run during the Buffaloes’ 40-34 comeback win over visiting East Union last Friday. - photo by Wayne Thallander
take me a minute to get into a rhythm.”

Manteca waited until the fourth quarter to unleash its newest weapon, though perhaps not by choice. This being his first game of 2021, while the rest have already played half of the regular-season schedule, his coaches were in no hurry to put so much on a quarterback who was clearly not yet in Week-6 form at the start.

Wyatt was forced to sit out the first five games because the Sac-Joaquin Section ruled him to be ineligible following his transfer from Downey of Modesto, where he played for the varsity as a sophomore over the spring. Sophomore Garrison Reis performed admirably in his place, completing 20 of 35 passes for 339 yards, six touchdowns and one interception.

Reis now plays tight end with Wyatt behind center, and the two hooked up for a key play during the Buffaloes’ late fourth-quarter comeback.

“I’ve been out six weeks and it’s been hard, but I’m proud of Garrison Reis for taking over and bringing us to 5-0,” Wyatt said. “I’m proud of this whole team.”

Wyatt only threw four times in the first half, in part because East Union had dominated possession. The first attempt was completed for 27 yards to Nichelson, but Manteca came up empty-handed on the drive and was down 21-7 at halftime.

The deficit grew to 27-7 early in the third quarter. Nichelson kept them in the game and ultimately won it for Manteca, but other players at the skill positions were required to step for that to happen.

Wyatt settled into a groove for the final two drives and established a connection with the speedy Trey Moreland (six receptions, 100 yards), a receiver who hadn’t previously been featured much in the passing game. Wyatt hit him for a 33-yard pass and later targeted Reis up the middle for an 18-yard gain that set up a 5-yard touchdown pass to Nichelson. A prototypical pocket passer, Wyatt showed some of his playmaking ability on the drive when he scrambled for 8 yards on third-and-7.

Wyatt later hit Moreland in stride with a perfect over-the-shoulder toss for a 38-yard touchdown, and Nichelson’s ensuing conversion run tied it at 34-34 with 59 seconds left. Each of Manteca’s final two series started with Wyatt getting sacked, but the Buffs overcame it with their potentially-explosive aerial attack. He was 8 of 14 for 122 yards on those drives combined.

“He put in five weeks of game time tonight,” Manteca coach Mark Varnum said. “You saw from the first quarter to the fourth quarter what he did. He found his groove in that last drive and he was special. You see how dangerous we are now. We’ll get the running game fixed, but now we have a whole other facet to our attack.”

Although Wyatt did not get to re-enter the game after orchestrating the game-tying series, he was just glad to feel like a real part of the team.

“I’m blessed to be here,” he said. “We have great talent, we have great coaches, it’s just a great program in general. I’m so proud of our guys and how we overcame being down 20.”