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Round 2 of citys rivalry games this Friday
Sierra faces undefeated Manteca after thrilling win over EUSierra faces undefeated Manteca after thr
Sierra High sophomore running back Anthony Cota makes his first appearance at Manteca High Friday after starring on the Buffaloes’ freshman team. - photo by HIME ROMERO


• WHAT: Manteca vs. Sierra
• WHEN: Friday
• KICKOFF: 7 p.m.
• WHERE: Guss Schmiedt Field

Eric Reis couldn’t wait to watch last week’s epic East Union-Sierra rivalry game on film, perhaps more so as a football fan than as Manteca High’s head coach scouting for strengths and weaknesses.

Sierra, which visits Manteca this Friday, pulled out a 30-28 victory highlighted by back-up quarterback Anthony Perea’s game-winning touchdown pass to Harold Wright on fourth-and-goal with 34.7 seconds left.

“It was a great game, and I was excited to be able to watch it on tape,” Reis said. “It was a slugfest that went back and forth and could have gone either way.”

If recent memory is any indication, Reis’ 5-0 Buffaloes could be in for a similar barnburner with Sierra (1-1 Valley Oak League, 2-3 overall), which is in must-win mode for the remainder of the season.

“We’ve put ourselves in a situation where we can’t lose if we want to get into the playoffs,” Sierra coach Jeff Harbison said. “This is as big as it gets and every game from here on out is going to be just as big.”

In 2008, the Timberwolves edged Manteca 7-6, a game that came down to a busted play on a point-after attempt. That win broke a seven-year losing streak against Manteca, and they made it back-to-back last year, 23-15.

The rivalry, as a result, has intensified over the last few years, and the transfer of sophomore standout Anthony Cota from Manteca to Sierra has further fueled it. The 6-foot, 187-pound bruiser has four touchdowns, three as a receiver out of the backfield, in four contests and even completed a 24-yard pass last week.

He racked up over 1,800 yards and 30 TDs on Manteca’s 9-1 freshman squad last year.

“He’s one of those players you have to know where he’s at on the field. He’s extremely talented,” Reis said.

Sierra’s quarterback situation is unsettled with starter Adrian Valencia exiting the East Union game with a shoulder injury, but based on Perea’s skills along with his handling of the game-winning drive Harbison wouldn’t feel any less comfortable if the junior is t called upon to orchestrate the team’s potent spread offense.

 “We’re really fortunate,” Harbison said. “At the beginning of the year it was a close competition between the two, and we feel very confident with Anthony. He’s a solid passer and a great runner with good vision. He’s not afraid to put his head down and plow into somebody when he needs to.”

 Injuries have been nothing new to the Timberwolves this year. They had five starters out last week, including running back Aaron Manuta (ankle) and could have up to six this Friday if Valencia is a no-go.

How the defenses perform will likely dictate the winner of the game. Sierra has given up 36 points per game, while Manteca yielded 32.3 in its three non-league games before shutting out winless Kimball and Weston Ranch.

Sierra was hugely successful in limiting Manteca in their previous two meetings by blitzing multiple linebackers and safeties on every play, mainly to stuff the run.

The Buffaloes, however, are as balanced as they have been under Reis with quarterback Matt Burrows (56 percent completion, 1,003 yards, 13 TDs, 5 INTs) and running back  Robert Ladiges (711 yards, 13 TDs) operating behind one of the league’s best and most experienced offensive lines.

“We didn’t do a very good job of tackling last week,” Harbison said. “It’s not a secret; all year long we haven’t been playing good football defensively, and we have to step it up this week.”