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No time for a nap
With rivalry game looming, Manteca, Sierra must guard against a letdown
Ripon Christian running back Andrew Brown is a major reason why the Knights sit atop the Southern League standings heading into this Fridays clash with Waterford. Brown leads the area in rushing and scoring. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Buletin

Sierra and Ripon aim to rebound from tough Week 7 losses, while Manteca and Ripon Christian are rolling along in their quests for outright league championships.

The area’s four contending teams are heavy favorites Friday night with stiffer competition ahead for three of them. Meanwhile, Lathrop hosts Sonora in the Wildcats’ final visit as a Valley Oak League member.

It’s the calm before the storm that is the growing rivalry between neighboring Manteca and Sierra. They will butt heads soon enough. This week they are guarding against letdowns against other Manteca Unified foes.

Sierra (3-1 VOL, 5-2 overall) heads across town to meet East Union (0-4, 1-6). Both squads are coming off losses — Sierra was knocked off by reigning VOL champ Oakdale 24-17 at The Corral, and Lathrop earned win No. 1 for first-year head coach Steven Wichman at the expense of East Union, 35-15. 

Sierra is after its 10th straight win over the Lancers and 13th in 14 years. The Timberwolves own the series lead, 13-5. They will try to get their offense back on track after Oakdale’s defense was able to weather quarterback Jake Pruitt’s hot start while completely shutting down the running game.

East Union has had trouble generating offense as injuries to key starters continue to mount. Aside from a 63-point, Week-1 explosion in a win over Orestimba, the Lancers have averaged just 9.5 points per game.

Manteca (4-0, 6-1) is taking its five-game winning streak, which includes a 35-20 victory at Oakdale, to Weston Ranch.

Seth Davis will be reunited with the Buffaloes, but as the opposing head coach for Weston Ranch. The 2006 Manteca graduate previously served as an assistant at his alma mater. He is in his first year of leading the Cougars, who are 1-3 in the VOL and 2-5 overall.

With its athletes in the passing game, Weston Ranch should provide Manteca good preparation for the upcoming battle with Sierra. The Buffaloes’ bend-don’t-break defense has been solid thus far, giving up more than 21 points just once (28-27 loss to Wilcox). The balanced offense, led by QB Joe Menzel and a plowing line, is putting up about 43 points per outing.

Ripon (3-1, 7-1) had its streak of Trans-Valley League wins end at 21 by Hilmar last week, 33-21. The good news for the Indians is that Hilmar still has to face Escalon and Hughson, so a title share isn’t out of the question. Ripon closes the regular season with cellar-dwelling Riverbank and Orestimba before a Week 10 bye sets up its postseason run. Riverbank (0-3, 2-5) hosts Ripon this Friday.

Ripon Christian (4-0, 6-1) hasn’t lost to a Southern League opponent since Waterford administered 49-7 walloping on Oct. 19, 2012. The rematch between the SL co-champs takes place at Stouffer Field.

Waterford (2-2, 3-4) ends a challenging road stretch this week after consecutive losses at Le Grand, 52-14, and Mariposa, 36-32. Ripon Christian beat Mariposa on the road 27-21 in Week 4 but hasn’t been tested since.