Scoring 14 unanswered points to begin the second half not only lifted the East Union Lancers into a 14-14 tie with host Manteca, it raised some similar feelings Buffalo faithful experienced a season ago.
The Lancers would not be able to pull off the unthinkable this season, succumbing to an intensified Manteca defensive effort over the game’s final 15 minutes in a 35-14 Valley Oak League loss Friday at Guss Schmeidt Field.
East Union (1-6 VOL, 1-9 overall) got a 26-yard touchdown grab from senior Kevin Bolding which pulled the Lancers even with Manteca. The score would be the wake-up call the Buffaloes would need, as they held East Union to negative yardage the rest of the way.
“They got that pass play and then the momentum got going,” Manteca head coach Eric Reis said. “I tip my hat to (Willie Herrera) and his staff over there; that team was not going to give up.
“It was good, it provided a little gut-check for us and I think we responded.”
The Manteca defensive unit did the majority of the responding, stifling Lancer quarterback Joe Menzel after the sophomore was able to immediately get the Lancers going in the second half. Menzel finished with 142 yards on 11-of-19 passing with a touchdown and an interception.
“I could not have been happier,” Menzel of the moment East Union tied things up at 14. “It was probably one of the best moments of the season. I will never forget this game even though we lost.
“I am proud of every one of our players; we knew they were going to come out and pretty much try and run up the score, so we were just trying to give it our all.”
Manteca had a less-than-stellar performance with its air attack, but rushed the ball at will through the East Union defense. The Buffaloes had a pair of backs (Cameron Harvey 109 yards and Anthony Hernandez 134 yards) surpass the century mark, establishing control of the game on two separate occasions with their rushing attack. The ground game coupled with the defensive effort proved to be just enough for the Buffaloes.
“These guys really gave it all they’ve got,” Herrera said. “We talked about squeezing everything out and leaving nothing left in there, and these guys did that tonight. We weren’t a 100 percent on all of our plays, but we sure did battle.
“This was the team that I expected to see every week.”
The Lancers’ season has crept upon its end, while the Buffaloes are preparing to enter the season that matters most. Home field playoff contests have not been kind to Manteca over the past two seasons, making its second season aspirations all too clear as they head into Week 11.
“I think we will be home for sure, so we want to defend our turf,” Reis said. “We haven’t done real well the last two years and that’s the bottom line.
“We want to win that game, so our mindset is focused on week 11 and nothing else.”
Playoff matchups and seedings will be announced on the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section website this evening.