Friday night will be a homecoming of sorts for Manteca High senior Joel Olmos.
He and the Buffaloes (12-1) are travelling to Menlo-Atherton (11-2) for the CIF State Northern California Division III-AA Regional Bowl Game.
About 22 miles away is Lincoln High of San Jose, where Olmos spent his sophomore and junior years before transferring. He’s looking forward to seeing family and old friends who plan on attending the game on a campus he’s already been acquainted with.
“I practiced there for baseball over the summer by the football field, so I’m pretty familiar with it,” Olmos said. “It’s a good place to play, a good environment.”
It has otherwise been a brand-new experience for Olmos. Not only is he having to find his way in new surroundings, he’s getting to compete in the postseason for the first time.
Last year, as Lincoln’s back-up quarterback and starting safety he helped the Lions claim the Blossom Valley League’s Santa Teresa Division championship and finish with a 9-1 record after they defeated rival San Jose 7-0 in the traditional Big Bone Game on Thanksgiving Day. Since the rivalry game occurred during the Central Coast Section playoffs, Lincoln’s season was ended with that.
“Coming from my other school, I just heard (Manteca) had a solid program and that I would be a good fit over here,” Olmos said. “This is the first time I’ve been in the playoffs, and actually going this far just doesn’t seem real.”
He ended up being a great fit for the Buffaloes, a program built on hard-nosed effort and physicality. While this year’s team still thrives with those characteristics, offensive coordinator Neil MacDannald has been able to open up the offense with talented quarterback Gino Campiotti, top receiver Jose Garcia and the fleet-footed Olmos.
At 5-foot-7, 150 pounds, Olmos gives Manteca a rare speed element on the outside.
“He has produced beyond our expectations — he makes big catches and is so clutch,” Reis said. He’s not only quick but he’s fast. We’ve had a lot of quick guys, but he’s both. Joel has paired up so well with Jose; teams can’t double team either guy. He really gave us the balance we were looking for.”
Olmos is Manteca’s second-leading receiver with 35 catches for 595 yards and eight touchdowns but is also a multi-dimensional threat. He has also rushed for 144 yards (9.0 per carry) and a touchdown and has scored twice on special-teams returns.
“The coaches can put me anywhere offensively and I’m confident that I can make on impact on the team,” Olmos said. “They put a lot of trust in me and I’ve been learning a lot since the summer, so I’m glad to be part of the team and that I can contribute.”
He’ll contribute as long as he can on the football field, but it’s on the baseball diamond where Olmos believes he shines brightest. The center fielder will just so happen to be joining a club that has won two Sac-Joaquin Section titles in three years.
MacDannald is also head coach for the baseball team, and Olmos has already lobbied to bat leadoff.
The coach’s response is usually the same when baseball is brought up: slow your roll there, kid.
Good luck slowing him down, coach.
“It’s funny because I’ll try to ask him baseball questions and he’ll say, ‘let’s not focus on that right now,’” Olmos said. “Baseball is really important to me and I want to pursue it as a career, but for right now I’m excited to see where the next couple of weeks takes us.”