The Manteca Buffaloes only managed to run three offensive plays in the first quarter of their rivalry matchup with the East Union Lancers on Friday night.
And by the looks of things, they weren’t going to be getting many opportunities to try and put points on the board.
With the shifty Jack Weaver under center, the Lancers struck first with just a few ticks on the clock to completely silence the stunned Manteca sideline at Dino Cunial Field – backing up the offensive surge with a defensive performance that limited Manteca to just three first downs during the entire first half.
But then something strange happened. People in the stands began yelling updates onto the field that Oakdale, which Manteca beat last week, was beating first-place Central Catholic at The Corral, giving the Buffaloes the opportunity to get a share of the Valley Oak League title.
They responded in the second half, rolling their way to a hard-fought 22-6 victory to get a piece of their first VOL title since 2013 — the last year Manteca claimed a Sac-Joaquin Section banner.
“We had only run three offensive plays in the first quarter and something like seven at the half so we knew that we had to change something when we went into the locker room,” said Manteca junior quarterback Gino Campiotti. “Hearing people yelling the scores helped us work harder and keep our motivation because we felt like we were a championship caliber team as well. Losing that game to Central really broke our heart.
“But we ended up champions, and what happened over there tonight worked out to our advantage because it helped motivate us.”
East Union (6-4, 3-4 VOL) started out in true playoff form – earning their first berth since 2010 despite the loss – with Weaver commanding the Lancer offense up and down the field for the entire first half – scoring on a 24-yard touchdown strike to Jake Harries with only five ticks remaining in the first quarter.
In all, the Lancers racked up seven first downs compared to Manteca’s three, but a failed point after touchdown gave the Buffaloes a 7-6 lead when Campiotti threw a 25-yard dart to Jose Garcia with just over four minutes to play in the half.
And then, the Buffaloes arrived.
On Manteca’s first play from scrimmage of the second half, Kameron Beamon rumbled in from 53 yards out to give Manteca a 14-6 lead, and after the offense failed to score on first-and-goal from the East Union 6-yard line – turning the ball over in the process – the Manteca defense made sure that there were some points on the board with a safety that gave the Buffaloes a 10-point lead.
A defensive stand on the next East Union possession forced the Lancers to punt from their own 7-yard line, only this time Garcia was there to field it at the 43-yard line and return it for the game-sealing score.
“It felt like a rivalry game tonight,” Manteca head coach Eric Reis said – still wet from the ice water bath given to him after the game. “We heard the people yelling from the stands the score of the Oakdale game and I think that gave the guys some extra motivation – as did what we said in the locker room at the half when we knew that because they came out and played an entirely different game.
“After you beat a team like Oakdale there’s always the chance that you’re going to have a letdown, and East Union played us hard tonight. We kept telling the kids, ‘2010’ (the year that the Lancers upset the then-undefeated Buffaloes) and challenged them because we didn’t have the best start tonight. But we got it done when we needed to.”
The Buffaloes will now have to wait for the section’s seeding show which airs today at 5:30 p.m.
Manteca will either be a Division III or Division IV qualifier based on enrollment. Oakdale gets the higher seed because of the 13-point rule. Central Catholic will compete in Division II, while East Union remains in III.
“We’re getting closer and closer to playing four quarters of football and we really want to see what that looks like,” East Union head coach Willie Herrera said. “If you look at the game and take away those big plays they got, it’s a different outcome. I was proud of our guys for that goal line stand that they made, and when I look my guys in the eye right now I don’t see the looks of defeat.
“They’re a good football team, but there’s a chance we’ll get to play them again. This is the first time in a long time that all of our teams have finished with winning records, so I think that it’s a good time for our program. We just need to put four quarters of football together.”
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email email@example.com or call 209.249.3544.