It’s never an easy game at Sonora High’s Dunlavy Field for opposing teams, especially when the Wildcats are celebrating homecoming.
“They were frothing at the mouth,” Manteca head coach Eric Reis said. “They were really fired up for this one.”
In the end, it was Manteca doing the celebrating.
The Buffaloes trailed for most of the game until finally taking the lead with 27 seconds left to cap a wild 27-20 come-from-behind victory.
Quarterback Joe Menzel (13 of 20, 162 yards) hit Alex Laurel for a 23-yard touchdown pass to give Manteca its only advantage, and he connected with T.J. Galdos (7 receptions, 57 yards) on the two-point conversion.
The win was sorely needed for Manteca (3-1 Valley Oak League, 4-3 overall), while the loss could prove damaging for Sonora’s Sac-Joaquin Section playoff chances. The Wildcats (2-2, 3-4) dropped their second straight league contest after getting upset at Kimball last week, and it doesn’t get any easier for with Sierra and Oakdale still left to play in the regular season.
Manteca takes on winless Lathrop next week followed by Oakdale and crosstown rival East Union.
“It was definitely a good win, so hopefully this gives us some confidence for the back part of the season,” said Reis.
Sonora led 14-0 at halftime with a 47-yard pass from Kade Barajas to Kyle Lester and a 2-yard quarterback scamper QB Casey Holman providing the early points.
Laurel got the Buffaloes on board with a 39-yard rush early in the third quarter. He ended up with 79 yards on seven rushes to lead the team.
Manteca inched closer later in the same quarter when Menzel hooked up with tight end Michael Hatfield for a 30-yard toss. The point-after kick was no good, keeping Sonora ahead 14-13 heading into the fourth.
The two teams traded scores — first with Holman’s 1-yard plunge, then Menzel’s run from 2 yards out — on their first possessions of the fourth quarter before Manteca’s comeback attempt was nearly halted by a costly lost fumble inside the Sonora 30.
Manteca’s defense held the Wildcats to a three-and-out series, setting the offense up with the game-winning series with 1:20 remaining.
“What was huge for us was that we had all our timeouts left when they were trying to run the clock out,” Reis said.
“It was a tale of two halves,” he added. “We were so lifeless in the first half, but the guys showed some resiliency in the second half and played so much better.”