Manteca stumbled hard out of the gate Friday night, but the second-seeded Buffaloes rebounded with the help of Gino Campiotti’s arm and the running of Trabron Russell in a 62-21 win over No. 15 Rio Americano in opening-round action of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs at Guss Schmiedt Field.
The Raiders (6-5) caught Manteca (9-2) napping on the opening kickoff and easily recovered an onside kick, only to go three-and-out. Not to worry for Rio Americano, as Manteca fumbled the ball away two plays later, setting up a 2-yard touchdown run by Jack Cartwright for a 7-0 lead with 9:51 left in the opening period.
“At the start, anything that could go wrong did,” Manteca coach Eric Reis said. “You have to give their coach credit, they came down here to win. Kicking the onside kick caught us on our heels, but fortunately we were able to finish the half strong. I thought we flipped it around pretty good.
“There is such a fine line with Gino (Campiotti). He is such a good freelancer, literally he is like Bret Favre. It drives you crazy and then he makes stuff happen. You like that part.”
The Buffaloes senior signal caller led Manteca on an 11-play, 76-yard drive capped by a 2-yard touchdown run from Russell to tie the game midway through the first period. Campiotti finished with 20 completions on 25 attempts for 323 yards with five touchdowns and an interception along with nine carries for 58 yards.
“On our second play I dropped the snap,” Campiotti said. “That was probably the worst thing we could have possibly done. I worked myself pretty hard on the sideline and decided we could not have any more of those mistakes. The rest of the game we came out and played smash-mouth, hard football the way Manteca does.
“We adopted the mentality we would not be denied. We were really good on the ground especially with Tra until he got banged up. He is a stud, an animal. He makes the passing game a lot easier. On a touchdown pass to Presley Keltner I faked dive to Russell and Presley wasn’t covered because they crashed so hard on Tra.”
Russell finished with 84 yards on 10 carries with two touchdowns before being forced out of the game in the third quarter with an ankle injury.
“We knew in practice this week that we were going to go through some things,” Russell said. “We bounced back as a team with a total team effort.”
After holding the Raiders again, Manteca began an 11-play, 80-yard drive that included a 17-yard pass from Campiotti to Jacob De Jesus (seven receptions, 95 yards, touchdown) on fourth down to give the Buffaloes first and goal from the 9-yard line. On third down from the 8 Campiotti spotted Jorge Cedano (six catches, 64 yards, touchdown) in the corner of the end zone and Cedano rotated 180 degrees to pluck the ball out of the air at the last second for a 14-7 Buffaloes lead with 9:34 left in the half.
“I was just trying to do my best to get to the ball,” Cedano said. “Gino and I are starting to get our timing down.”
Campiotti added touchdown throws of 22 yards to Presley Keltner — who fully extended to make the grab — 21 yards to Carter Williams and 63 yards to Dom Rea, a recent call-up from the sophomore team.
Chris Ortiz scored on a 2-yard run for Manteca and Michael Frisby (seven carries, 99 yards) had a 64-yard touchdown run straight up the middle early in the fourth quarter.
“I haven’t had a hole like that since freshman year,” said Frisby, a senior. “I never looked back and I knew I was going to make it.”
While it appears Maximus Davis scorched the Buffaloes secondary with 249 yards passing going 14 of 28 with two touchdowns and an interception, two of those completions totaled 118 yards with Savion Ponce (three receptions, 116 yards) scoring on a 72-yard pass play. The Manteca defense limited the Raiders to 12 yards on the ground.
The one Manteca interception was highlight-reel worthy with Matthew Ender hammering a Rio Americano receiver and Kyle Rachels swooping in to dive for the interception just before the ball found the ground.
“We go by the little saying, ‘Tips and overthrows, gotta get those,’” Rachels said. “My DB (Ender) made the play and I got the interception.”
The Buffaloes host No. 7 American Canyon next Friday at 7 p.m. in a second-round contest.