OAKLAND — Speed kills, and the Manteca High football team found that out the hard way Saturday night in the CIF State Division II-A NorCal Regional Bowl Game at William Belford Stadium.
McClymonds ran around, over and through the visiting Buffaloes, scoring five first-half touchdowns on the way to a 46-13 win. The Warriors will play for their fourth consecutive state championship next Friday at Cerritos College in Norwalk against Pacifica (11-1) of Oxnard.
After deferring to the second half, the McClymonds (11-0) forced the Buffaloes (11-3) to go three-and-out to start the game and then took just two plays to go 65 yards for a touchdown, capped off by Montrell Smith’s 19-yard touchdown run.
On the ensuing possession, Manteca went for it on fourth down and did not make it. This time, Gary Alexander Jr.’s 2-yard scoring plunge capped a two-play, 55-yard drive and the rout was on.
Smith finished with 203 yards on 18 carries, while quarterback Dreyan Paul finished 6 of 9 for 157 yards and two touchdowns while adding two more rushing scores on the ground for McClymonds.
“Last week we started really slow,” McClymonds coach Michael Peters said. “Today, we knew we needed to start fast against these guys. I never saw them live and I didn’t know what we were facing.
“We started off really fast. It was nice. And all we have in the school is 300 students.”
As he did all year, Trabron Russell (24 carries, 131 yards, two touchdowns; one reception, 23 yards) led the Manteca ground game, but unlike previous games, most of his carries were hard-earned short bursts with only three carries longer than 10 yards. His scoring runs were 1 and 3 yards.
“If you would have told me at the beginning of the year we were going to go this far I may have believed you,” Russell said. “But I would have gone 50-50 on it.
“We fought back from adversity. We lost two games that we shouldn’t have and we kept going. We had heart the whole season and that is what kept us going. But tonight, these guys were the hardest-hitting team we have faced all year, by far.”
The Buffaloes defense had a few bright spots. Dom Rea blocked a pair of point-after attempts and Quincy Robinson intercepted a deflected ball deep in Manteca territory late in the first half.
“It was a down-and-distance thing,” Robinson said. “And the defense hadn’t been doing what it needed to do. As soon as I saw the ball go up I knew I had to make a play.
“We work on the tip drill in practice a lot, for cases just like this. We couldn’t let them drive down the field there and get another score.”
Buffaloes coach Mark Varnum knew that his team did not put its best foot forward.
“We didn’t give our best effort tonight,” Varnum said. “That’s unfortunate, but I’ll tell you what, the speed and the athletes they had were just unbelievable. I take my hat off to them. If we bring our 'A' or A-plus game maybe it’s a different story — maybe we hang with them for a little bit. We got a tough draw, but we have to find a way to take that next step.
“But if it’s not broke we’re not going to fix it. I am using the same book from when I took over from Coach (Eric) Reis two years ago. It’s the same book, just a different chapter and we have some more pages to write.”
Those pages will be written without stalwarts Russell or Jacob DeJesus , third-year starters who will be lost to graduation.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the careers of Tra (Russell) or Jacob (De Jesus),” Varnum said. “They are among the top two players in Manteca history.
“I am going to miss them.”
Like Russell, De Jesus (five receptions, 67 yards; eight carries, 31 yards) could not wiggle out of the defensive cage McClymonds corralled Manteca in.
“Obviously this stings,” DeJesus said. “We wanted a state championship and to be the first team from Manteca High to win a state championship, but that’s not going to happen.
“We fought hard all season. We got our third D-III title in four years. We have so many players who were new to the team or came back after not playing a year. It was an incredible journey.”
Manteca 7 0 6 0 — 13
McClymonds 24 7 8 7 — 46
Mc—Montrell Smith 19 run (kick fail), 9:37
Mc—Gary Alexander Jr. 2 run (run fail), 7:44
Ma—Trabron Russell 1 run (Kevin Thornburg kick), 6:16
Mc—Edward Woods 71 pass from Dreyan Paul (pass fail), 5:54
Mc—Paul 4 run (pass fail), 0:52
Mc—Paul 4 run (Daniel Phoenix kick), 5:46
Mc—Jabril White 73 kickoff return (kick fail), 11:44
Ma—Russell 3 run (run fail), 6:11
Mc—Caleb Kendricks blocked punt safety, 3:01
Mc—Anthony Mack Jr. 10 pass from Paul (Phoenix kick), 5:14