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Buffs rarin to get season started after impressive showing at camp
Manteca running back Hector Soto wards off arm tackle before barreling into the end zone during inside-run drills with Pacheco at the West High full-contact camp on July 16. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO

TRACY — Manteca ended its summer program by going toe-to-toe with familiar rivals.

The Buffaloes capped last week’s three-day full-contact camp at West High with 11-on-11 scrimmages against Valley Oak League foe Kimball and defending Trans-Valley League champion Ripon, which visits Manteca’s Guss Schmiedt Field annually for a four-team jamboree in the preseason.

“Ripon is a hard-nosed football team, so we knew they were going to bring it,” Manteca coach Eric Reis said. “And when you’re facing another VOL school you know they’re going to bring it. They brought out the best in us and we hope we did the same for them. It was fiery.”

Manteca also got a taste of the unfamiliar, which should have it prepared for a new-look nonleague schedule. Other participants at the camp were Dougherty Valley from San Ramon, Galt’s Liberty Ranch and Pacheco of Los Banos.

All in all it was impressive showing for the Buffaloes, who had some dominating performances from the likes of left tackle Isaac McClain and guard Billy Sharmoug. The team’s committee of running backs — featuring Michael Gonzalez, Alex Laurel, Peter Moa and Hector Soto — took advantage of the considerable push provided from the front during inside-run drills and the 11-on-11s.

“These camps are really big, because the way these guys play in street clothes and pads there is a dramatic difference,” Reis said. “There are always positives where we go, ‘Hey, he’s pretty good,’ but there are also others who make us think, ‘Maybe they’re not as good as we thought.’

“I really like the West camp because it’s close, and the cost compared to most others are minimal. It’s also a nice conclusion to the summer. All summer the players work hard and it culminates into this. In years past it the camp was a week or two before (the Dead Period) so it would be more of an anticlimactic end.”

The Sac-Joaquin Section’s Dead Period for all fall sports kicked off this Monday. The first official practice is Aug. 12, and teams can start practicing in pads after two days of pre-conditioning.

Menzel had ample time to work with the first-team offense this summer after serving as a part-timer behind then-senior Ryan Fox last year. Menzel transferred from East Union following a sophomore season in which he broke single-season passing records.

Manteca had 7-on-7 sessions with Tracy and Grace Davis but failed to defend its 2012 title in Patterson’s passing tournament.

“We didn’t do as well this year, but we got stuck playing multiple games in a row,” Reis said. “By the third one it was 108 (degrees) and were just not the same. We just ran out of gas.”

Manteca hosts Atwater, Ripon and Central Valley for its four-team scrimmage on Aug. 24. A week later, the Buffaloes will head to Ceres to face Ja’Quan Gardner (1,562 rushing yards, 15 TDs) and Central Valley, a former VOL opponent, in their first-ever zero-week appearance. That will be followed by first-time showdown with Santa Clara’s Wilcox, which has its own powerful runner in Delshawn Mitchell (1,640 yards, 24 touchdowns), at home.

Their nonleague schedule concludes at Los Banos in a rematch of last year’s loss. Manteca will take the following week off to prepare for its league opener against visiting Sonora, which is in its final season in the VOL.

“Our schedule is a lot more different than it had been,” Reis said. “We’ve never played a week zero game and we’re going to have stop Gardner — he’s as explosive as anyone in the area. Wilcox is a very good football team out of the San Jose area. They play one of the top programs in the Bay Area in Valley Christian right before us, so they’re not going to be intimidated coming to Manteca.

“And we’ve never started league against Sonora. Their JV team won the championship last year, so we know they’re going to be very good.”