OAKDALE – Eric Reis closed his postgame speech on Friday evening with three very apt words for his program:
Soak it in.
By then, of course, the Manteca High football coach had done just that, absorbing a Gatorade bath in the final seconds of a 35-20 victory over the Valley Oak League’s resident king, Oakdale High.
Already the winningest football coach in Buffalo history, Reis added two accomplishments to his impressive ledger with Friday’s statement.
The win was Reis’ 100th in a career that has spanned parts of 12 seasons and includes back-to-back Sac-Joaquin Section championships.
It was also his first at The Corral, snapping a five-game losing streak.
“It still doesn’t feel real yet,” said Reis, who savored the moment after the game with friends and family, moving one from one long embrace to the next.
He was presented with a sign commemorating his milestone victory and took pictures with the team.
“To pull something off like this at your alma mater … it’s a dream come true.”
The Mustangs made it interesting late with three Brock Whiting touchdown runs, but Joe Menzel and a star-studded cast made the evening memorable.
Menzel threw three touchdowns, including first-half strikes to Alex Laurel and Michael Hatfield as the Buffaloes surged to a 21-0 halftime lead.
The cushion would balloon to 28 points just moments into the second half.
Laurel took the first play of the third quarter 80 yards, delivering a gut-punch to the capacity home crowd washed in red.
“All I was thinking was ‘Am I running fast enough?’” said Laurel, who finished with three total touchdowns and now has 17 in six games.
The electric senior back finished with 202 yards on 25 carries, ensuring victory with eight time-consuming carries on the final drive of the game.
With 30 seconds left, the sideline went still as the Gatorade bucket moved into position behind Reis.
Soak it in, coach.
“There was electricity in the air tonight,” said Menzel, who was 16 of 22 for 160 yards. “Coming into The Corral and coach Reis hadn’t won here, and he was going for his 100th win. … It gave us a lot of motivation. This gives us the inside leg on the Valley Oak League championships and we think we can get it done.”
Manteca cleared a major hurdle on Friday. The Buffaloes (5-1) are now 3-0 in the Valley Oak League with a showdown with Sierra (3-0) looming Nov. 1.
Before that, though, the Timberwolves have their own appointment at The Corral next week.
“This was a huge step for our program,” Reis said. “It shows the maturation of this team – we can run, we can throw. We’ve got some stars.”
The defense wasn’t too bad, either, tilting the field in Manteca’s favor on the game’s opening play.
Lineman Billy Sharmoug blasted through the line, knocking the center into Oakdale quarterback Dillon Tamburrino during the exchange, jarring the ball loose.
The fumble was scooped up by linebacker Jacob LeDon (sack), playing with right hand wrapped in padding to protect pins.
With a short field, Laurel went to work. He carried the ball five times on the Buffaloes’ opening possession, finishing the drive with a 2-yard burst over the left edge.
Manteca stretched the lead to 14 with 8:35 left in the second quarter after Menzel led an 18-play, 80-yard drive.
Hatfield capped the drive with a 15-yard touchdown reception, his third in two weeks.
Menzel threw the ball high over the middle in traffic, where only the 6-foot-6 tight end could catch it.
The Buffaloes overcame a bit of adversity in the waning seconds of the first half to make it 21-0.
After moving the ball to the Oakdale 1-yard line with 13 seconds left, Manteca was flagged for an erroneous substitution penalty, which moved the ball back to the 6.
Menzel responded with a 6-yard flick to Laurel, staring down a blitz and throwing from his heels.
The senior quarterback has thrown eight touchdown passes in two weeks.
“I’m having the time of my life out here,” Menzel said.
One week after piling up 422 rushing yards and 62 points in a victory over Weston Ranch, the Mustangs’ Wing-T was grounded.
Oakdale turned the ball over twice and ran just 22 plays in the first half for 44 yards.