Eric Reis got a firsthand look at his team’s next opponent last week in the opening round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoffs.
The head coach for top-seeded Manteca came away impressed with Los Banos’ combination of size and athletic ability, but he suspects the fourth-seeded Tigers (8-3) were not at their best as they edged No. 5 El Dorado 23-20 in dramatic fashion.
“From what I’ve seen on film they seem to have another gear than what they showed last week,” Reis said. “We better be ready for it.”
Friday’s showdown at Guss Schmiedt Field will mark the first between these old Valley Oak League rivals in the postseason. Los Banos left the VOL for the Central California Conference more than a decade ago but has recently faced the Buffaloes.
The Tigers won their previous visit to Guss Schmiedt Field 42-28 and finished 11-2 back in 2012. Manteca avenged the loss the following year 42-7 en route to capturing the SJS Division III title.
Los Banos will look to knock off a No. 1 seed from the Valley Oak League for a second straight year. In 2015, the Tigers stunned Lathrop, 30-29.
“They would love nothing more than to pull it off again,” Reis said. “They won’t be intimidated coming to Manteca, so we better bring our ‘A’ game.”
Los Banos had a big effort from 5-foot-7, 135-pound receiver Daniel Guerrero last Friday, as he scored the game-winning touchdown with 28 seconds remaining. He ended up with three touchdowns, including a 90-yard return on the opening kickoff.
Manteca (10-1) will have its hands full against Los Banos’ athletes such as Guerrero but the battle starts in the trenches. The Tigers are stout across the offensive line, with imposing 6-2, 300-pound right tackle Gilbert Pena leading the way.
“They’re definitely the biggest line we’ve seen so far,” Manteca defensive end/left guard Justin Kakala said. The Buffaloes are no slouches at the line of scrimmage either. They’ll counter with 6-2, 260-pound Kyle Reis, 6-0, 285-pound sophomore Noe Salidvar and the 6-4, 270-pound Kakala.
The Tigers have a 1,000-pound rusher in Chris Kyles and a dual-threat quarterback in 6-foot, 210-pound Christian Corral.
“The quarterback is the one who stirs the drink,” Reis said. “They run a lot of zone-reads with him and he throws it real well.”
Los Banos is the Western Athletic conference runner-up and has won four straight since a competitive 16-8 loss to WAC champion Central Valley.
Quarterback Gino Campiotti (1,369 yards, 16 TDs) is having his best stretch of the season for Manteca. The Buffaloes drubbed Dixon 42-13 in their playoff opener last Thursday, and Campiotti gashed the Rams with both his arm (11 of 14, 198 yards, four TDs) and legs (96 rushes, TD).
“Our offense has been looking good, especially the last few weeks,” Campiotti said. “Their defense is fast, but I think our offense, especially up front, can match up with them.”
The winner faces off with No. 2 Placer (6-5) or No. 6 Center (8-3) in the championship game Saturday, Nov. 26 at Lincoln High of Stockton. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.
Placer and Center are Pioneer Valley League rivals. Placer defeated the Cougars 16-15 last month and seized a share of the league crown. Center upset No. 3-seeded Sierra, the section’s defending Division IV champion, 29-27 in the first round.
“We’re really excited but we have to take it game by game and not feel entitled,” Kakala said. “Hopefully we get (to the finals).”