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Early defensive stand gives Buffaloes boost at Lathrop
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LATHROP – After opening the contest with a 14-play, 80-yard scoring drive, the Manteca Buffaloes’ defensive unit provided a stop on fourth-and-4 from midfield and the rout was on. When it was all said and done, Lathrop High was left coping with a 56-0 Valley Oak League loss Friday at Bennie Gatto Field.

Manteca (4-1, 5-2 overall) pasted four touchdowns on Lathrop by the halfway point of the second quarter. The Buffaloes added another score for a 35-0 halftime lead, the final two scores coming on touchdown passes from junior quarterback Joe Menzel.

Manteca opened with quarterback Ryan Fox, who engineered the Buffaloes’ first scoring drive, before giving way to Menzel. Menzel instantly found TJ Galdos for a score on a drive where he was a perfect 3-for-3.

Fox would return and lead Manteca on its third scoring drive, and then surrendered the reins back to Menzel who hooked-up with Alex Garlets for an 81-yard scoring toss. A punt from each club would set up Menzel’s next score, a 23-yard touchdown pass to Galdos.

“They both threw great balls tonight and the lineman gave them good protection to let them throw the ball,” Galdos said of his quarterbacks. “They put the ball where it needed to be for us receivers to make the catch. The quarterbacks have definitely worked to get us a passing game that works.”

Lathrop was stifled offensively throughout the night, never really gaining any momentum through play-calling, or productivity. The Spartans kept fighting, but the reality is that for probably only the second time this season they were overmatched.

“I’m not sure what happened,” Lathrop running back Kevin Rainey said. “I thought everybody was doing their job and I was just out there trying to do mine.

“It was pretty physical; all I could do was try to run hard.”

Rainey courageously toted the ball 20 times for the Spartans, gaining 61 yards in the loss. Rainey’s longest run in the contest went for 12 yards and the only Lathrop player with over three touches was never held behind the line of scrimmage.

The victory sets up the highly-anticipated Manteca-Oakdale showdown coming Friday. The Mustangs are undefeated in VOL action and the Buffaloes only have the single blemish. Playoff positioning, league title implications and a rivalry that dates back decades will all help magnify the importance of this year’s installment.

“I can’t say we’re where we want to be just yet,” Manteca leading rusher Eddie Smith said. “We’ve turned the page already; and this was a good win, but we’re focused on Oakdale already. We’ll come out Monday and get healthy and watch film.

“We know what to expect from them and we know they’re a tough team, but we’ll be ready.”