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Manteca defense stymies Sierras spread offense
Mantecas Darrion Kitson (7) breaks the tackle of Sierras Geo Juarez (32) as he heads for the end zone in the third quarter Friday. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

Manteca’s strong-as-steal defense was dented.

The Buffaloes thought they had an interception in the end zone, but Sierra receiver Jimmy Galindo was able to snatch the ball away from defensive back Gino Campiotti while the two stumbled onto the grass. The 15-yard reception and ensuing conversion run by Mark Paule Jr. tied it at 8-8 early in the second quarter while giving the upset-minded Timberwolves some needed momentum in Friday’s Valley Oak League tussle at Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium.

Manteca dominated the rest of the way en route to a 43-8 blowout.

It was the first touchdown the Buffaloes (3-0 VOL, 6-0 overall) have given up in the first three quarters of a game, and a grand total of 20 points have been scored on them so far. Sierra’s only scoring drive wasn’t entirely on the defense, as Daniel Wyatt gave the Timberwolves a short field with a 50-yard punt return.

“We weren’t down about it,” Manteca defensive end Darrion Kitson said. “We were more like, ‘Oh, alright.’ Anytime something goes bad we just keep it positive. We just keep hitting, that’s what we do.”

And the hits kept on coming.

One week after its spread offense broke out in a 54-28 win over East Union, Sierra (1-2, 3-3) struggled to get untracked and failed to score with good field position on its first two drives. Paule (13 rushes, 20 yards) was bottled up by the Buffaloes for a second straight year, and the Timberwolves were limited to 99 yards and six first downs.

Manteca’s defense got even better as the game wore on, surrendering just 12 yards and one first down in the second half.

“Their defensive stifled us offensively which led to our defense being on the field way too much,” Sierra coach Jeff Harbison said. “We couldn’t put together four quarters of football.”

Sierra’s best drive was its first. Energized by Tim Brown’s 31-yard kickoff return, the Timberwolves marched down to the Manteca 6 only to miss a 21-yard field goal.

Manteca gave it right back, however, as Marcos Castillo — minutes after missing the field goal — intercepted Dakarai Charles’ overthrown pass and set up the Timberwolves at the Buffalo 39. The series stalled on the 34, as outside linebacker Javaun Dunn batted down two passes at the line of scrimmage on third and fourth downs.

“Our defense is very nasty,” Charles said. “I threw a pick and they saved my butt. Our defense is going to take us a long way. The offense is going to move downfield and score some points, but we need the defense to win a championship.”

Dunn ended up with three pass deflections even picked off Mark Vicente (6 of 18, 62 yards; 19 yards rushing) on the first play of the fourth quarter. Ronaldo Tijero also had an interception along with four catches and 85 yards on offense. Marcus Rivas contributed a strip sack with Kameron Beamon coming up with the fumble recovery. Meanwhile, James Thomas and Ferrin Manuleleua continued their strong play and each had several tackles for losses.

Manuleleua — an impressive 5-foot-11, 205-poound sophomore — recorded the first points of the game with a 5-yard scamper and conversion late in the opening quarter. Kitson had three touchdowns and 69 yards on 10 carries. Charles finished 8 of 12 passing for 128 yards and added for 62 yards rushing. His 21-yard run off a read-option extended Manteca’s lead to 36-8 with 5.6 seconds to go in the third quarter.

Charles did most of his damage in the first half when he was setting up big plays with his feet. He avoided sacks and connected with Tijero for 34- and 44-yard plays that were followed by Kitson touchdowns in the first half.

Manteca changed the tempo for the final two quarters, going to its bread-and-butter power-I. The Buffaloes finished with 351 yards.

“We have packages for certain situations and a lot of different players who can make plays from different positions,” Charles said. “There’s a lot of diversity.”

They’ll need everything they have up their sleeve and more next week when they host 6-0 Central Catholic.

“Every week just builds,” Manteca coach Eric Reis said. “With Sierra this was obviously a big week and this creates a monster showdown for us next week at our place. I’ve watched (Central Catholic) and they’re one of the best teams I’ve ever seen on tape. They have no weakness. It’s going to be a huge test. We’re not underdogs at home very often.”