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Buffs strive to be better from this Fridays Los Banos game
Sierra Highs Anthony Cota barrels his way toward the end zone for one of his school-record seven touchdowns in last Fridays victory over visiting Grace Davis. - photo by Photo by WAYNE THALLANDER


Los Banos (2-0) at Manteca (1-0): The Buffs get a stern test from a loaded offense that returns nine players, but LB’s defense has had trouble slowing down the run — a strength of Manteca’s (31-27, Manteca).


Laguna Creek (1-0) at Sierra (2-0): T’Wolves’ final tune-up before VOL opener with Oakdale is also a rematch of last year’s loss to Laguna Creek, which competes in the stacked DVC (35-30, Laguna Creek).


Capital Christian (2-0) at Lathrop (0-1): Capital is coming off a statement win over the defending SJS Division-VI champion and has impressive athletes despite its low numbers (30-21, Capital Christian).


Tokay (2-0) at Weston Ranch (1-0): The Cougars gutted out a double-OT win in their opener, but now they face a confident Tokay squad that is both deep and experienced (34-19, Tokay).


Ripon Christian (1-0) at Ripon (2-0): Ripon is on an absolute roll to start the season and is simply too big, too fast and too deep for its neighboring rivals (49-7, Ripon).


Last week: 7-0 (10-0 overall).


— Jonamar Jacinto

Manteca’s regular-season record of 25-5 over the past three years is matched or bettered by few in the Sac-Joaquin Section.

But the Buffaloes are 0-3 in the postseason during that same stretch, losing to lower-seeded opponents at home. The first-round failures have cast a dreadful shadow over their regular-season success, which includes a Valley Oak League championship in 2010.

Enter Los Banos, their Week 2 opponent this Friday.

There are high expectations for the 2-0 Tigers, who are likely to compete in Division IV for the SJS playoffs after playing in the Division II as recently as 2010.

Manteca hasn’t won a postseason game since 2007. It is the hope of head coach Eric Reis that Friday’s game, win or lose, will help catapult the team past the first round.

“It played a major part in the scheduling of Los Banos,” Reis said. “They are a very good football team that is going to test us in ways that few teams can. We want to be a championship team, and you’ve got to play top-notch teams to get to that level.

“Our preseason is set up to prepare us for league. Stagg and Edison prepare us for the teams in our league that run spread and provide a different test. Los Banos is a power team that is excellent at playaction pass.”

Los Banos, the reigning champ of the Western Athletic Conference, already has a big win under its belt, a 34-32 shootout against powerhouse Escalon. Escalon earned the Division III state title in 2010 and returned to the section finals in 2011 but was upset by Trans-Valley League rival Hilmar.

The Tigers return nine starters on offense, chiefly 5-foot-11, 175-pound running back James Sams, who already has 315 yards and seven touchdowns through two games. He reminds Reis of former Buffalo standout Marquis Miller, who rushed for 1,572 yards and 22 TDs as a senior in 2009.

“He has a perfect blend of power and speed,” Reis said.

What makes Sams even more dangerous is Los Banos’ passing game led by quarterback Chris Corpuz, who has completed 22 of 26 passes for 346 yards, four touchdowns and no picks so far. His top receiver is the speedy 5-11 Daeton West, and he has a big target in 6-3 sophomore tight end Alec Barcellos.

“Their quarterback shows a lot of poise in the pocket and throws a great ball,” Reis said. “(West) is what you see on Saturday afternoons — tall, fast and runs very good routes.”

The good news for Manteca is that Los Banos’ aggressive defense brings back just two starters and has struggled to stop the run, giving up over 250 yards in each of its first two games. Roosevelt’s Jermey Whigham racked up 246 yards in a 47-21 losing effort to Los Banos last week.

A physical running attack is Manteca’s bread and butter. Even with two starting offensive linemen out, the Buffaloes piled up 350 yards on the ground — led by Eddie Smith’s 162 — in a 34-6 win at Edison.

“Probably the only way to stop their offense is to keep them off the field,” Reis said. “Time of possession will be big for us this week, but we need to score on drives. We need to do a better job this week of protecting the ball.”

Laguna Creek at Sierra

A rematch of last year’s nonleague shootout in which Laguna Creek battled back from a 26-13 halftime deficit to prevail, 40-33.

The Cardinals’ first-ever coach from the mid-90s, Dave Morton, is back after 17 years, and he has the daunting task of making the team competitive in the tough Delta Valley Conference that includes crosstown rivals Elk Grove, Franklin, Monterey Trail as well as Grant of Sacramento.

Laguna blew out Florin last week 55-6 behind Cecil Williams’ 175 passing yards and four touchdowns, three of which went to 6-1 receiver Denzel Johnson. The Cardinals also racked up 233 rushing yards.

Their top returner is linebacker Davonte Castex, who will key in on Sierra RB Anthony Cota (378 yards, 9 TDs).

Capital Christian at Lathrop

The Cougars (2-0) of Sacramento have the second lowest enrollment figures in the SJS’ Division I-IV pool and have only 23 players on the roster, but they are favored to win the Golden Empire League title this year.

They made a statement with last week’s 38-21 win over Bradshaw Christian, the section’s defending Division VI titlist.

Quinton Kirk (246 yards, 3 TDs) spearheads a run-first attack that already boasts four rushers with over 100 yards each. Kirk is also the team’s leading tackler. Capital has a standout lineman in 6-4, 270-pound Nifae Lealao.

Tokay at Weston Ranch

Louis Franklin is 3-1 against Weston Ranch’s Mike Hale in a battle featuring two former Tokay High standouts. The Cougars (1-0) won last year’s contest 41-25, but Tokay returns a wealth of players who have reason to be confident after blowing out Bear Creek and El Dorado by a combined score of 90-14.

Tokay (2-0) has a promising dual-threat signal caller in Kelse DePauli-Wiltse (332, 6 TDs, 0 INTs; 95 rushing yards, TD), a 6-foot-4 junior. Bryson Schreiner (292 yards, 3 TDs) is a workhorse but is also a dangerous pass catcher out of the backfield.

Ripon Christian at Ripon

The Ripon Bowl Rivalry Trophy has stayed with Ripon High for the first six years.

The latest meeting was the most competitive, as Ripon Christian (1-0) kept it close in the early going before losing, 35-7. Since then, the Knights have lost their two best linemen to graduation and a handful of others who were expected to return. Ripon (2-0), meanwhile, brings back its big-play quartet of QB Kyle Wengel, WR Cole Herrin and RBs Anthony Baciocco and Josh McCreath.

There are other skill players who have showcased their abilities, while the linemen dominated in emphatic wins over Mother Lode League opponents Linden and Bret Harte.

Quarterback Danny Vos and RB Andrew Brown picked up where they left off from last year in RC’s 28-13 victory over Elliot Christian Saturday, but depth will be an issue for the Knights in Week 2.