Eleven teams have tried, and all have failed to slow down Inderkum’s high-tempo Wing-T offense.
The 11-0 Tigers of Sacramento are seeded third in the treacherous Sac-Joaquin Section Division III bracket and welcome a familiar opponent in No. 6 Manteca (9-2) for the quarterfinals Friday night. They’re coming off an astounding 82-32 rout of No. 14 Lincoln of Placer County.
“They scored 82 points last week — 82, and they’re a running football team,” Manteca coach Eric Reis said. “It’s not like they throw on every single play and it stops the clock, they’re running 50- to 60-yard touchdowns every other play. It’s going to be a tremendous challenge for us. Our (goal) is to make them earn it. Let’s try to make them (sustain) drives instead of 80-yard bursts up the gut.”
Inderkum gutted the Lincoln defense for 720 yards, 572 of which came on the ground. Five different players rushed for touchdowns and two of them — Raekwon Turner (166 yards, three touchdowns) and Jimmie Johnson (194 yards, two touchdowns) — nearly scampered for 200 yards on no more than 10 carries apiece.
Inderkum’s season-low for points scored in a game is 34, but that was in a one-sided 34-7 defeat of Woodland. The Tigers thrashed Fairfield 71-6 in their season opener.
Catching Inderkum after the snap is half the battle. Similar to Manteca’s Valley Oak League rival Oakdale, which also runs the Wing-T, the Tigers line up quickly for each play to force defenses to react on the fly. Oakdale came back from a 20-0 halftime deficit to beat Inderkum 27-23 in last year’s Division III championship game. Manteca struggled in Oakdale four weeks ago, losing 45-14.
“The last time we faced a Wing-T we weren’t very good, but I feel like we’re better prepared this time,” Manteca running back/linebacker Marcus Rivas said. “We’ll try our best.”
Turner (1,498 yards, 19 touchdowns) is one of three Inderkum rushers with at least 800 yards. Derrick Henderson (802 yards, 14 touchdowns) is out for the season with a torn ACL, but Inderkum still has Johnson (987 yards, 11 touchdowns) and two others who have rushed for at least 300 yards. Henderson also starred at linebacker and is Inderkum’s career record holder for tackles.
“They definitely have an abundance of riches when it comes to speed and athleticism,” Reis said.
And just because they don’t pass much it doesn’t mean they can’t pass at all. Reis is also impressed by Tigers junior quarterback Trajon Cotton (859 yards, seven touchdowns; 360 rushing yards, six touchdowns) and heavily-recruited 6-foot-5, 220-pound junior tight end Josh Falo, who caught four passes for 126 yards and a touchdown in the opening round.
This will be the third time in four years that Inderkum and Manteca have squared off in the postseason. In 2012, Inderkum survived a first-round scare, 30-21. The Buffaloes got even the following year, winning the semifinal contest 45-36 en route to claiming their fourth section crown.
“We played really good that night against a really good Inderkum team,” Reis said of the 2012 showdown. “We’re going to need a similar type of effort this week.”
The Buffaloes are working on tidying up their play after they were nearly done in by turnovers and special teams miscues in last week’s 31-28 win over No. 11 Central Valley. Manteca was up 21-0 in the first quarter but held on for the victory.
“What I liked is that even though the momentum flipped on us we were able to gather ourselves and finish,” Reis said. “I thought we were able to finish well both offensively and defensively, and that’s something we’re hoping to build on. We’re so young, and with this many puppies playing it’s something that is really going to have to benefit us a lot for the future.”
Manteca starts four sophomores, including Gino Campiotti at quarterback and safety, but for the seniors they don’t want this to be their last hurrah. Rivas, who scampered for 102 yards and two touchdowns last week, said the team has embraced its role as underdog and has extra motivation to play well on Friday.
“It hasn’t hit me yet, but I just want to play hard because I don’t know when the last snap is going to be,” he said. “I’m going to go out there, fight as hard as I can and never give up.”