Manteca came up empty-handed twice in the red zone, committed 11 penalties and had an extra point blocked Friday against Central Catholic.
The result was yet another excruciating loss to the Raiders, who hobbled into the start of their Valley Oak League title defense and sprinted away from Guss Schmiedt Field victorious for the first time this season, 27-26.
Central (1-0 VOL, 1-4 overall) has beaten the Buffaloes (0-1, 3-2) six straight years since joining the league. The Modesto powerhouse somehow kept the streak going despite being outgained 304-201 in offensive yards.
“Beat ourselves, plain and simple,” Manteca coach Mark Varnum said. “We talked about how you have to be disciplined, you can’t make those kinds of mistakes and we did. You can’t make them against a team of that caliber — it doesn’t matter what their record is.
“We made more mistakes than they did and we came out on the short end, bottom line.”
Minaya Olivo was the workhorse for Central Catholic, rushing for 98 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries. The Raiders’ between-the-tackles approach was a stark contrast to the quick-striking ability of Manteca.
Olivo took a swing pass from Dalton Durossette (9 of 18, 111 yards, two TDs) and was untouched on a 13-yard touchdown that put the Raiders up for good with 1:11 remaining.
Durossette overthrew 6-foot-6 receiver Nic Sani on the conversion pass, but he had already made a play that helped make a difference. It was the 6-3 quarterback who blocked Kevin Thornburg’s PAT midway through the third quarter, keeping the Raiders ahead, 21-20.
On the next drive, Durossette’s punt was blocked by Manteca lineman Dominik Neuharth, setting Manteca up on the Central Catholic 7-yard line. Two plays later, Raiders cornerback Lyon Colon came through for a clutch interception in the end zone after intended target Sunny Dozier (three receptions, 69 yards, TD) initially tipped the ball into the air.
The Buffaloes did end up taking their first and only lead early in the fourth quarter when Ryan Ward hit Dominic Rea from 14 yards out and had a chance to lock down the big league-opening win after forcing Central Catholic to punt.
“Once again, we just could not finish,” Varnum said, referencing the Buffs’ gut-wrenching 54-48 overtime loss at Downey on Week 1.
A false-start penalty, one of many pre-snap infractions that went against Manteca throughout, was followed by a 3-yard loss on a run play stuffed by Central Catholic defensive backs Kyle Jackson and Colon — Manteca and Lathrop residents, respectively.
Manteca was forced to punt, and good fortune shined the Raiders’ way on the play. Central Catholic’s Frank Clark, standing near midfield, lost sight of the ball until it hit the top of his helmet and took a big bounce toward the Manteca end zone.
Sithri Price, Central’s standout receiver, was the right man at the right spot, as he scooped up the loose ball and raced to the Buffaloes 34 where the Raiders set up the go-ahead drive. From scrimmage, Price finished with six catches for 79 yards. He made another impressive play in the second quarter, stripping the ball away from Manteca cornerback Quincy Robinson — who momentarily had the interception — on a jump-ball toss from Durossette for a 28-yard gain.
“They’re a good football team but we just made plays,” Central Catholic coach Roger Canepa said. The Raiders’ four losses were to renowned programs, most notably De La Salle.
“We’ve been down and kicked here a little but it’s league time, and you have to win in league. Found a way to win and it could have gone either way.”
It was an up-and-down effort for Ward and the Manteca offense. Ward’s first five and final four passes of the game fell incomplete. He finished 15 of 29 for 230 yards, four touchdowns and an interception. Jacob DeJesus (six catches, 104 yards) was on the receiving end of two of those touchdowns, including a 56-yard strike up the middle.
Trabron Russell scampered 11 times for 63 yards. The third-year running back single-handedly jump-started the Buffaloes’ sputtering attack in the first quarter. He was nearly dropped for a big loss on a toss sweep but spun away from defenders and found open field going right to left for a 20-yard pick-up.
Manteca tied it up at 7-7 three plays later with DeJesus scoring on a 14-yard pass play with Isaac Searcy and Sunny Dozier providing key blocks downfield.
The Buffaloes missed out on a chance to jump ahead before halftime. Dozier’s highlight-worthy 20-yard catch-and-run in Central Catholic territory ended with a late hit that put the ball in the red zone. They got as far down as the 10-yard line but were stumped by a mishandled snap and false start. The drive stalled on the 21 after an incomplete pass on fourth-and-12.
“When we got the ball to our weapons they did some good things,” Varnum said. “We were not on our ‘A’ game tonight, unfortunately. There were too many miscues and too many missed opportunities and this is what happens.”
C. Catholic 7 7 7 6 — 27
Manteca 7 7 6 6 — 26
C—Minaya Olivo 19 run (David Gallegos kick), 9:14.
M—Jacob DeJesus 14 pass from Ryan Ward (Kevin Thornburg kick), 7:33.
C—Nic Sani 15 pass from Dalton Durossette (Gallegos kick), 10:18.
M—DeJesus 56 pass from Ward (Thornburg kick), 4:19.
C—Olivo 5 run (Gallegos kick), 7:58.
M—Sunny Dozier 44 pass from Ward (kick blocked), 5:39.
M—Dominic Rea 14 pass from Ward (pass failed), 8:58.
C—Olivo 13 pass from Durossette (pass failed), 1:11.