SACRAMENTO — Manteca may have been late to the party, but the Buffaloes showed up in time to stun Christian Brothers with an improbable 36-35 win Friday at Sacramento City College’s Hughes Stadium.
Down 35-21, Gino Campiotti threw two late touchdowns and the game-winning two-point conversion all to Presley Keltner, while safety Kyle Rachels clinched the heart-stopping victory with an interception.
“We saw the heart of a champion tonight,” Buffaloes coach Eric Reis said. “We never gave up.
“We absolutely would not give up and we made the big play when we had to.”
The game ended with controversy.
Rachels’ pick came with 48 seconds left in the game in front of the Falcons bench. He sprinted across the field and was on his way to scoring when he dove toward the pylon and the ball came loose. A Christian Brothers player picked the ball up and thought he was on his way to a touchdown the other way, but Rachels was ruled out of bounds at the 5-yard line, drawing deafening boos and catcalls from the home crowd and sidelines.
“I knew they were going to throw to No. 4 (Spencer Webb),” Rachels said. “That’s their main guy and I kind of playing off of him.
“I was thinking that I could not get beat deep and I made a good read on the ball.”
Campiotti (18 of 21 passing, 325 yards, three touchdowns; rushing TD) hit Keltner with a 10-yard scoring strike with 2:41 left in the game to draw Manteca (2-0) in, 35-28. All Christian Brothers (0-1) had to do was run the clock out, but instead the Falcons went to the air on two of three plays and missed both passes, giving the ball back to the Buffaloes and the hot-handed Campiotti with 1:58 remaining.
“At the end, I was just trusting my receivers,” Campiotti said. “I figured out the coverages they had been running and it finally started clicking for me. And they blitzed both middle backers almost every single play so I have to give big props to my line. I have no idea how five guys blocked six but they made it work.”
Campiotti almost did not get the chance for his last touchdown throw. On the first play of the last drive, Campiotti fumbled recovered his own fumble on a scramble.
Five plays later, he spotted Keltner (five receptions, 192 yards, three TDs) on a delay rout for a 47-yard scoring pass to come within one. On the ensuing conversion, Campiotti rolled to his right and fired across to field to Keltner for the eventual winning two-point conversion.
“I am not the primary receiver on the conversion,” Keltner said. “The play was going the other way so I ran across the field and got open.”
Campiotti started the night’s scoring on a 1-yard plunge in the first quarter, and Manteca scored twice in the third period — once on a Trabron Russell 9-yard run and the other on a 76-yard pass from Campiotti to Keltner — to tie the score at 21-21 going into the fourth quarter.
Campiotti and Keltner were not the only dynamic duo on the field.
Christian Brothers’ Gunnor Faulk had 184 yards passing with 122 of that with three touchdowns going to Webb, an Oregon commit.
“I knew that they couldn’t stop us, but we couldn’t stop them,” Reis said. “Webb is going to Oregon, and he is getting a full ride for a reason. He’s really good.”