Manteca and East Union are putting their perfect records, and much more, on the line this Friday when the Valley Oak League schedule kicks off with monster matchups for both squads.
Central Catholic (2-0) invades Manteca’s Guss Schmiedt Field and is 3-0 against the Buffaloes since returning to the league. East Union, meanwhile, looks to end a decades-long losing streak to Oakdale at Dino Cunial Field.
Also on Friday, Sierra and Lathrop celebrate homecoming against Kimball and Weston Ranch, respectively. Ripon Christian is getting tested out the gate in Southern League play as it heads to Newman to face unbeaten Orestimba, and Ripon closes out its nonleague schedule with North Section stalwart Sutter.
It’s a big week for all area teams, but the Central Catholic-Manteca showdown is likely to garner the most attention. They were part of a three-way share of the 2016 VOL championship along with Oakdale, and the triumvirate rates highly in state rankings. According to MaxPreps computer rankings, Central Catholic leads the way at No. 35 in the state, Oakdale is 36th and Manteca 47th.
“There are three VOL schools in the top 50 in the state, and I don’t think that has happened before,” Manteca coach Eric Reis said. “It shows where the league is at.”
All three are battle-tested. Reis’ Buffaloes held off CIF State Division 2-AA finalist Valley Christian (San Jose) 22-20 in Week Zero before an improbable 36-35 comeback win over Sac-Joaquin Section Division III finalist Christian Brothers (Sacramento).
Not to be outdone, Central Catholic stunned St. Mary’s of Stockton 20-7 two weeks ago. St. Mary’s hadn’t been held to single digits since De La Salle did it in 2011. The Raiders earlier blasted Archbishop Riordan 68-7, and their Week 1 contest with Marin Catholic due to extreme heat.
Dauson Booker, a 6-foot-1, 199-pound running back and strong safety, starred in Central’s two wins, accumulating 351 yards and three touchdowns.
“A kid this big should not be that fast,” Reis said. “He runs super hard and has great vision.
“They just block and execute so well,” Reis added. “They get off the ball and don’t make mistakes. They give this guy a shot to take any play to the house.”
Manteca’s offense, led by quarterback Gino Campiotti (45 of 70, 654 yards, eight TDs), will also be tested against a stout Central Catholic defense that has already picked off six passes.
And that’s not all.
“One thing people don’t talk about is their special teams,” Reis said. “They have a good kicker who can kick it so high and deep to the 1-yard line and pin you into bad field possession. They win special teams most of the time and that’s a huge deal. We’re doing everything we can to prepare for that.”
Here’s a closer look at other Week 3 matchups:
Oakdale (2-1) at East Union (3-0): The Lancers’ reward for a third-straight 3-0 start? A visit from the reigning CIF State Division III-A champion.
Like its fellow VOL heavyweights, Oakdale had an ambitious pre-league schedule capped off by a 45-29 loss to Folsom — the top team in the Sacramento area and perennial NorCal power. It’s just the seventh loss in their last 88 games held at The Corral, where the Mustangs ran roughshod in a 42-6 win over East Union last year.
Oakdale returns much of the talent from its state championship team, including QB Marc Dickson, RB/CB Cameron Cherry and linemen Matt Kjeldgaard and Nico Sarale.
Kimball (0-3) at Sierra (1-2): After three games that were decided in fourth quarters, the bye week was especially beneficial for the banged-up Timberwolves as they look to work out the kinks in running first-year head coach Chris Johnson’s pistol Wing-T.
Daemon Duran (250 yards, three TDs) and Larenz Redd (283 yards, four TDs) have emerged, but QB Jacob Peterson did not play in Sierra’s 42-27 loss at Pacheco after injuring a shoulder in Week 1.
Sierra has a good opportunity to even its record before the schedule gets exponentially tougher. Kimball checks in as the lone winless team in the VOL, and its latest defeat was a 55-0 blowout for rival Tracy. The Jaguars are averaging just 118 yards per game.
Weston Ranch (1-2) at Lathrop (1-2): Lathrop has won the last three in the Battle of I-5 series. The ninth showdown between the rival schools will be the last as VOL counterparts with the Spartans moving to the Western Athletic Conference next year.
They’ll try and get their offense untracked after getting shut out 56-0 at Franklin of Elk Grove last week and losing to Hilmar 35-13 in Week 1. It’s a good time for them to do so after Weston Ranch surrendered an average of 58.7 points in pre-league action.
The Cougars, though, can put up points thanks to junior QB Amier Bowen, who has thrown for 879 yards and 10 touchdowns and rushed for 379 and three.
Sutter (2-1) at Ripon (3-1): Ripon hosts the rubber match after splitting the first two with the Huskies, winners of three straight NS Division III titles.
Sutter makes the long trip after two home blowouts — 63-6 over Dixon and 42-0 over Marysville. The Huskies lost 34-18 to Orem, a highly-ranked team out of Utah, in their opener.
It will be Ripon’s biggest challenge before starting its Trans-Valley League schedule in two weeks. QB Tyler Reynolds, son of head coach Ryan Reynolds, has completed 77.5 percent of his passes for 543 yards and four scores and is Sutter’s second-leading rusher with 263 yards and six touchdowns. The Huskies showed well in ta 27-10 loss at Oakdale in the CIF State Division III-A NorCal Bowl Game last season.
Ripon Christian (2-1) at Orestimba (3-0): The road to the SL championship starts with defending champion Orestimba for the Knights, who were competitive in a 17-7 loss in their 2016 meeting.
Orestimba’s balanced pistol offense stars junior QB Jacob Bettencourt (568 yards, seven TDs) and RB Tymon Bolden (389 yards, seven TDs). The Warriors have dominated three out-of-section opponents, most notably CIF State Division VI-AA NorCal finalist Mendota, 48-20.
huge game expecting big crowd … why you .. looking forward to that challenge.