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Reis, Buffaloes wary of No. 16 Vanden
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Eric Reis knows that football games aren’t played on paper.

The 6-4 Vanden squad that his Manteca team will face on Friday in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs would appear to be a matchup that the 9-1 Buffaloes would have no problem handling — especially with the Vikings bringing up the rear in the D-III bracket as the 16th seed.

But Reis lost to Vanden in his first year at the helm as head coach in 2002 and realizes that you can’t determine the strength of a team simply by looking at their record, evidenced by the loss that the East Union Lancers handed previously unbeaten Manteca last week.

“Their record is very misleading, and that’s something that we’re going to have to keep in mind this week. We can’t look past anybody,” Reis said. “The losses that they’ve had this year are against teams like Whitney and Will C. Wood. They lost their league championship game last week, and that’s what dropped them down to the spot they’re in.

“They’re definitely not the No. 16 seed that you’d expect to find when you get your playoff draw. We’d like to have gotten one of those, but that’s not the case here.”

While Manteca sits comfortably atop the bracket, they’ll have to stop the spread offense commanded by quarterback Ben Scott (6-foot-3, 170 pounds), who has passed for 1,715 yards this season and slung in 19 touchdown passes with only seven interceptions.

Scott likes to put the ball into the hands of Cody Holbein (6-0, 165), who has pulled in nine touchdown catches to go with his 640 receiving yards, and always has the option of handing the ball off to runner Kevin Orme (5-10, 195), who has rushed for 671 yards and found the end zone nine times this season.

But the thing that scares Reis the most is Vanden’s size in players like Pierson Ma’afu (6-3, 364), Cory Ellerbee (6-3, 290), and Paul Tablit (6-3, 265).

“They’re very big across the board, and they mix that up with some very fast guys on the outside,” Reis said. “They have some legitimate threats, and they like to throw the long ball.”

Manteca, however, has its own horses.

Outstanding runner Robert Ladiges (5-9, 204) has rushed for 1,624 yards so far this season, and has ran to daylight 24 times to lead the team in scoring. Senior quarterback Matt Burrows (6-1, 241) has passed for 1,877 yards and thrown 20 touchdowns to only 8 interceptions.

The balance of both running and passing attacks, Reis says, should help Manteca stifle a Vanden defense that likes to change its set depending on the strengths of a team.

“That’s one of the things that has really helped us out this year,” Reis said of being able to both run and throw the football. “In the past if we had the running game shut down there wasn’t anything we can do. Now if they load up the box we’ll be able to pass the ball, and having that flexibility is huge.”

While last week’s heartbreaking loss might have prevented Manteca from completing a perfect season, Reis says that his team is now focused on what happens on Friday night, knowing that it’s do-or-die time.

“We had a very spirited practice in our first full go, and I think everybody realizes that we’re all zero and zero at this point,” Reis said. “We’re in the dance now, and if you lose, you’re out. I think everybody realizes the circumstances.”