Six of the seven Manteca-area high school football teams are hitting the road for their Week 1 matchups.
Only East Union remains home — literally. Coming off a 41-12 season-opening rout of Grace Davis, the Lancers are idle this week with other Modesto Metro Conference teams — Johansen and Gregori — remaining on their pre-league schedule.
Fresh off a zero-week bye, Weston Ranch has the shortest trip of all, as it begins its season at Edison, just a few miles north of campus. Ripon heads to Patterson, while Sierra and Lathrop are looking to rebound from losses at Central Valley (Ceres) and Liberty Ranch (Galt), respectively.
Manteca (1-0) travels the farthest and waits a day longer for its next contest. The Buffaloes are venturing 120 miles south to North Monterey County High in Castroville on Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.
Sean Gomes has returned to coach the Condors after leading them to a 17-4 record in 2009-10. It’s the program’s seventh coaching change in the last eight years. Previous head coach John Villa has roots in Merced and was aware of Manteca’s winning tradition when seeking to fill a vacancy in his schedule. He stepped down earlier in the summer for family reasons, according to The Californian.
“He said he wanted to play a hard-nosed football team and asked that we come over and play them there,” Manteca coach Eric Reis said. “Unfortunately, he’s not there anymore.”
North Monterey County competes in the Monterey Bay League Pacific Division of the Central Coast Section. It’s also one of the first programs to employ the fly offense, which spearheaded much of its success in the 1980s. Mark Speckman, one of the fly’s forefathers, began coaching there at the lower levels.
“They still run the fly,” Reis said. “It’s been their baby forever.”
But the Buffaloes are prepared to see more on Saturday. While the Condors return their top rusher, Bobby Tovar, from 2014, they also bring back 6-foot-3 receiver Jordan Graves. Reis said North Monterey County makes good use of its weapons, based on film he watched from the Condors’ scrimmage last week.
“They still have their fly sets, but they’ll get into a spread and try to throw the ball on you, too,” Reis said. “And they do it pretty well.”
Manteca is incorporating a little spread in its attack with multi-threat quarterback Dakarai Charles leading the charge. The Buffaloes trounced Buhach Colony 34-6 last week but struggled offensively at the outset.
“So many mistakes,” Reis said. “We had some growing pains with the young offense but we ran the ball well and I was real encouraged by the defense. It was one of our better week-zero defensive efforts.”
Reis added that the team won’t be in any hurry to rush back to the Central Valley after the contest. Castroville is about a 15-mile drive from Monterey, though it’s not necessary to venture out that far to see the coast.
“The weather is so nice over there, so it’s good to get out of this heat a little bit,” he said. “The plan is to go eat dinner after the game. We have a lot of kids who haven’t seen the ocean, so hopefully we can play well and enjoy hanging out at the beach a little bit before heading home.”
Also in Week 1:
uSierra (0-1) and Central Valley (0-1) aim to even their records Friday at Ceres High. Last week, Central Valley lost to Atwater, 34-20 — the same score of Sierra’s zero-week defeat at the hands of Ripon. Sierra crushed the Hawks 56-0 in 2014 but graduated much of its stars from that team.
uLathrop (0-1) kicked off 2015 much like it did 2014, with a disappointing loss against West. The Spartans hope history repeats itself Friday when they head to Galt to face Liberty Ranch (0-0) for a rematch. Last season, Lathrop prevailed, 24-8. The sophomore squad won even more decisively, 33-6, and that Liberty Ranch team ended up 8-2.
uBoth Ripon (1-0) and Patterson (1-0) are trying to build off impressive season-opening wins. Ripon toppled Valley Oak League co-champion Sierra, while the Tigers raced away from Escalon, 53-34. It’s another good measuring stick for the experienced Indians, who will again face a squad with superior size and speed. Patterson had two 100-yard rushers in Michael Lawson and Jamal Broussard last week.
uRipon Christian (1-0) and Stone Ridge Christian (1-0) each have wins over fledgling programs from larger schools. Stone Ridge edged out Merced rival El Capitan, in its second varsity season, 40-34, while Ripon Christian demolished first-year Mountain House, 52-0. Sophomore Shane Casillas rushed for 223 yards and three TDs for Stone Ridge.