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Manteca loses NorCal bowl to Wilcox
Blake Nichelson rushes for 332 yards, 3 TDs in defeat
Manteca-Wilcox football
Manteca's Blake Nichelson drops a shoulder into Wilcox's Maulidi Saleh (26). - photo by SEAN KAHLER


Manteca 7 0 14 0 — 21

Wilcox 7 7 21 0 — 35


First quarter

M — Blake Nichelson 5 run (Eduardo Zambrano kick), 9:51.

W — Andrew Palacios 19 run (Anthan Wingate kick), 2:33.


Second quarter

W — Luther K. Glenn 4 run (Wingate kick), 7:14.


Third quarter

W — Glenn 65 run (Wingate kick), 11:50.

M — Nichelson 67 run (Zambrano kick), 10:04.

W — Armond Johnson 14 run (Wingate kick), 3:41.

M — Nichelson 80 run (Zambrano kick), 3:37.

W — Glenn 84 pass from Johnson (Wingate kick), 2:31.


SANTA CLARA — Despite a heroic rushing effort by Manteca’s Blake Nichelson on Saturday night, the Buffaloes stumbled after a dynamic start and could not recover as Wilcox High bounced back to defeat Manteca 35-21 in the CIF Division II-A NorCal Regional Bowl Game on Fitzpatrick Field. 

“We had turnovers and penalties in that first half,” Manteca coach Mark Varnum said. “You are not going to win like that. It was one of the sloppiest first halves we have played in a while and it put us behind the 8-ball a little bit, but I am proud we fought back.

“They do what they do very well. Everyone felt this was going to be two pretty much evenly matched teams going at it, but they just made more plays than we did.”

After the Chargers (10-4) won the opening coin toss and deferred to the second half, the Buffaloes (10-4) took full advantage and marched 79 yards in seven plays capped off by a 5-yard Blake Nichelson touchdown for a 7-0 Manteca lead.

The Buffaloes pooched the ensuing kickoff with Dominic Alvarez (three tackles) forcing a fumble and Marcus Brennan recovering it to push Wilcox back on its heels. The drive stalled courtesy of a Manteca holding call and an interception on a trick play. The Chargers ended up scoring the next three touchdowns, and the Buffaloes would not crawl out of that hole.

“We were resilient in that moment,” Wilcox coach Paul Rosa said. “They kind of punched us in the mouth and luckily we responded. They are a tough running team and we knew that. We knew that but you have to respond or you are just going to get rolled up.

“I was proud of our guys because they went touchdown-turnover but then got a stop. We ended up scoring twice in the half and that was a big turning point in the game, for sure.”

Manteca went toe-to-toe with the Chargers in the 35-point third quarter, but the Buffaloes could not come up with the key stop when they needed to. Nichelson score on consecutive runs of 67 and 80 yards in the period and the Manteca junior finished with a phenomenal 332 yards on 30 carries with three touchdowns.

“Both of those long scoring runs pretty much happened the same way,” Nichelson said. “After the first one I figured it would happen on the second run. I just saw the open field and I ran toward it.

“I still have next year, so in the off season I am just going to be grinding and getting bigger and stronger, preparing for next season.”

Cris Ray was in on 11 tackles for the Buffaloes with Mason Gibson (fumble recovery) making eight stops, Thomas Perea six, Nichelson, Alijah Cota and Justin Beglau five each and Trey Moreland four.

Luther K. Glenn was the workhorse for Wilcox, gaining 167 yards on 20 carries with scoring runs of 4 and 65 yards. His biggest play was in the passing game, as he caught a pass from Armand Johnson (6-of-9 passing, 134 yards) and broke a tackle in the open field for an 84-yard touchdown. That play capped a wild third quarter in which the Chargers outscored Manteca, 21-14. It was also the final touchdown of the game.

Manteca threatened to answer in the fourth quarter, but turned it over on downs at the 5-yard line on a fourth-and-inches quarterback sneak with 7:38 remaining.

Johnson added nine carries, 49 yards and a14-yard touchdown run to Wilcox’s ground attack. Andrew Palacios contributed 70 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries.

The Chargers will play Scripps Ranch (13-1) of San Diego in the CIF Division II-A state title game next Saturday, Dec. 11 at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo. Scripps Ranch defeated Valencia 45-38 in the SoCal regional.

This was an up-and-down season for Manteca, going undefeated through the first seven games before losing the final three regular-season contests. The Buffaloes bounced back to defeat Valley Oak League rival Oakdale for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championship, setting up the showdown with the Chargers.

“We have a lot to celebrate,” Varnum said. “This hurts and it should hurt because we wanted more, we wanted this one really bad. 

“A lot of people left us for dead after losing the last three of the regular season and we ended up being section champs. We have a lot to be proud of, a lot to celebrate and we are going to keep moving forward.”