By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
EU spoils Mantecas bid for perfection; snaps 10-game losing streak to rival
East Union High’s Kyle Edwards starts to celebrate with teammates on the field after knocking off previously unbeaten Manteca High 10-7 Friday. - photo by HIME ROMERO
Manteca High and East Union were locked in a classic battle Friday at Dino Cunial Field.

In recent years, this longstanding Valley Oak League rivalry belonged to the Buffaloes.

But this night was different.

From the opening kickoff, the Lancers rode a wave of emotions that eventually led to a 10-7 upset win over previously unbeaten Manteca (5-1, 9-1).

In the process, the Buffaloes went from sole possession of first place in the VOL to sharing the title with Oakdale, which defeated Sonora.

“This has to go down as one of our worst losses ever,” said Manteca quarterback Matt Burrows, who saw his team’s last-ditch effort go down when his pass in the end zone was batted down by Lancer defender Ryan Ward.

East Union (4-3, 7-3) is playoff-bound for the first time in 18 years. Yet the team remained focus with the task at hand: Stopping the Buffaloes.

Lancers coach Mike James knew defense would be the key, in particular, containing Manteca running back Robert Ladiges.

For that, he turned to his young defensive coach Willie Herrera, who made adjustments based on the Buffaloes’ offensive formations. For example, he had his linebackers, Thomas King and Dominic Barba, stay inside of the seams.

Ladiges still got his yards, picking up a game-high 155 yards, but was kept out of the end zone.

The Lancers proved early on that they could move the ball against the Buffaloes. However, they had to avoid turnovers.

“In our last three games, we committed 12 turnovers,” James said. “Our record was 1-2.”

Quarterback Teejay Gordon directed East Union in the first quarter, completing a 38-yard catch-and-run pass play to Robert Vaughn. Steven Gigli also had a 20-yard run on the drive capped by Alex Dias’ 37-yard field goal.

Manteca went to its ground game led by Ladiges, who was once again was the workhorse. He almost single-handedly drove the ball deep into Lancer territory.

The theat ended when Ward picked off a pass at his 3, in turn, returning the theft to the Buffalo 34.

A few plays later, Gigli took a short screen pass from Gordon, converting the catch into a 25-yard touchdown run at the 9:14 mark of the second quarter.

Much went East Union’s way through most of the game, including a block punt shortly before halftime by Ryanh Somphithack.

 In the second half, Barba and Jose Manzano recovered fumbles.

The only break down by the Lancers occurred in the fourth quarter. Burrows went over the top, connecting with Michael Timmins in stride on the 49-yard bomb.

East Union regrouped, consuming time off the clock on drives that included one that fell inches shy of a first down after four plays.

That left Manteca with 1 minute, 25 seconds to operate with time winding down. Burrows connected with Ryan Culpepper to advance the ball.

East Union held on, with the Red Sea – the spirited students section at Dino Cunial Field – erupting on to the field to join in the celebration.

“Our defense really stepped it up,” said defensive lineman Kyle Edwards, who helped lead the charge.

Added Chris Andaya: “We practiced hard this week to prepare for this game – we did our job and stuck with the game plan.”

James, who was emotional after years of tough times, was twice doused with Gatorade in the post game.

He ranked this upset victory near the top of the list of his coaching achievements.

“I’ve coached here for 28 years, been involved in section and VOL championship games,” said James, who took time to reflect on recent years. “This one meant more.”