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Local postseason qualifiers jockeying for position
Manteca can guarantee berth by beating East Union Friday
Manteca High running back Alex Laurel breaks an open-field tackle during last Fridays Valley Oak League game against Oakdale. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Ripon’s postseason ticket is punched with its 10-game regular-season schedule already wrapped up.

Sierra can secure an automatic berth as the Valley Oak League’s runner-up — that is unless Sonora stuns six-time defending champion Oakdale — and first-round home game with a win at Weston Ranch this Friday.

Ripon Christian is in, but will it be as co-champion?

Manteca, a postseason regular, probably needs to beat crosstown rival East Union for a 9th appearance in Eric Reis’ 11 years as head coach.

There is much left to be settled in the final week of the regular season.

Just two years ago, East Union was the site of the biggest upset between city rivals in recent memory, as the host Lancers snapped a 10-year losing skid to Manteca — undefeated at the time — with a 10-7 victory while clinching the school’s first playoff berth since 1992.

Last season, East Union threatened to make it two straight wins over the Buffs, who scored 21 unanswered points to prevail, 35-14. It was 14-all with 3:43 left in the third quarter. That was with then-sophomore QB Joe Menzel leading EU’s spread offense from the quarterback position. He since transferred to Manteca after setting single-season passing records at EU and now splits time with senior Ryan Fox.

Manteca (4-2 VOL, 5-4 overall) won’t be looking past the Lancers (1-5, 1-8) with a playoff bid on the line. While their strength of schedule could get them in as a five-win team, the Buffaloes would prefer to leave destiny in their own hands.

Manteca is coming off an inspired effort against Oakdale, a 28-7 winner of last week’s showdown. Oakdale came in winning 13 straight league games with running clocks and averaging 42 points per game.

Sierra (5-1, 8-1) has a chance to go 9-1 in the regular season for the second time in school history. Running back Anthony Cota is looking to add to his remarkable resume, as he needs 142 yards to break Jarrod Daniels’ 2009 single-season rushing mark of 1,813 yards. Cota has already eclipsed Daniels’s career-rushing (3,249) and single-season touchdown (36) totals.

Weston Ranch (2-4, 4-5) was drubbed 55-7 by Kimball last week and will lack the opponents’ wins to advance to the playoffs should the Cougars upset Sierra on Friday.

According to the Sac-Joaquin Section postseason projections, Sierra and Manteca would be seeded fifth and 12th, respectively, in Division III with wins on Friday. That is unlikely to happen, as the section avoids to pair league rivals in the first round.

Ripon Christian (5-1, 7-2) has an opportunity to force a three-way share of the Southern League championship at Le Grand (6-0, 8-1). Le Grand has a 25-game winning streak in league.

Even with a loss, RC will make the postseason with an at-large berth for a second straight year. The Knights are projected to compete in the SJS Division VI bracket, which gives them a legitimate opportunity to earn the program’s first section title.

As for idle Ripon (10-0), the Trans-Valley League champion, it will likely be seeded second with Argonaut having the edge in opponents’ wins.