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East Union varsity shut down because of COVID-19, Manteca to play McClymonds; Ranch also out
Bulletin sports 2020-21
Jesus Gomez (7) looks to make a play on the ball in East Union's home game against Weston Ranch this past Saturday. - photo by Wayne Thallander

The 54th meeting between city rivals Manteca and East Union will have to wait until the fall. 

The final game of the five-week spring season has been canceled because of positive test results for COVID-19 within the East Union program. The Lancers (2-2) were scheduled to host Manteca (4-0) on Saturday afternoon. The freshman and junior varsity games are still on at Dino Cunial Field with 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. kickoff times.

Weston Ranch (1-2) also had its home finale against Kimball called off because of contact tracing. The Cougars were East Union's last opponents, and they squared off this past Saturday afternoon within 48 hours of testing Monday morning. Kimball will instead take on 4-0 Hughson of the Trans-Valley League for an interesting match-up. 

Manteca, meanwhile, has found a replacement opponent in McClymonds for a rematch of their 2019 California Interscholastic Federation Division II-A NorCal Regional Bowl Game. They'll tangle Saturday at Guss Schmiedt Field starting at 6 p.m.

East Union head coach Willie Herrera had to break the news to his players at the end of practice on Tuesday night, receiving word of the test results as the team was preparing to cool down. 

“We had this game circled and we were ready,” Herrera said. “If you could have seen the looks on my players' faces last night it would have brought you to tears. I found out 15 minutes before the end of practice and had to tell the seniors that this was it.”

For Weston Ranch, this is the second game the Cougars are missing after previous opponent Ripon (0-3) had positive tests two weeks ago. 

No team in the area has been as unlucky as Lathrop (0-1), which is already done with only one of its five games played. The Spartans even had to scrap their preseason scrimmage with East Union. 

“What can we do?” Herrera said. “I've been asking a million questions. Unfortunately, there's nothing you can do once you get that (positive test). I get that we gotta err on the side of caution to make sure that people are healthy, but this is so hard to stomach. Nobody wants to go out that way.”

East Union looked forward to getting the chance to end a nine-game losing streak to Manteca and cap this pandemic-shortened season with the momentum of a big win to carry into the fall. The Lancers also wanted to rid the sour taste of heartbreaking losses to much-improved Kimball 32-29 and Valley Oak League power Oakdale, 35-27.

“Look at the things that doomed us in those two losses, the nine total turnovers — that's tough,” Herrera said. “If we have no turnovers it's a different story and we're 4-0. 

“Now, we gotta sit with this taste in our mouth for a long time and who knows what next year will be like if we continue to test.”

Manteca coach Mark Varnum began searching for a new opponent immediately after getting word of East Union potentially having to back out. Looking to prepare his young team for next season, he went after the best available opponent and, as a bonus, got to give his seniors one last hurrah at Guss Schmiedt Field.

McClymonds (3-0) is an Oakland juggernaut that is familiar to the Buffaloes. Last year, the Warriors rolled past Manteca 46-13 to reach a fourth straight state championship game. They wound up losing to Pacifica of Oxnard, 34-6.

“We figure we're going to see teams like that anyway to get to where we want,” Varnum said. “They're No. 1 in their Section (Oakland Section) and we're No. 1 (in Division III) in Sac-Joaquin, so we might as well run it back and treat it like another NorCal final. 

“We want to have a great experience for the seniors and for the guys coming back. We went to their place last year and hopefully we'll have different results. The kids are ready to roll.”


Friday's games

Lathrop at Escalon (JV), 5 p.m.

Sierra at Escalon (V), 7 p.m.

Ripon at Oakdale (JV/V), 5/7 p.m.

Saturday's games

Manteca at East Union (F/JV), 11 a.m./1 p.m.

McClymonds at Manteca (V), 6 p.m.