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Spartans gunning for first-ever VOL win
Quarterback Joe Menzel and the Lancers of East Union are looking to earn their first win of the season at Lathrop Friday.

East Union (0-3) at Lathrop (1-2): It’s Lathrop’s classic wishbone offense against EU’s spread. EU has struggled against the run, and Lathrop looks to feed off the backing of its homecoming crowd.  (23-17, Lathrop)

Kimball (1-2) at Manteca (3-0): The Buffaloes’ defense has passed every test with flying colors, and it gets another in Kimball’s dual-threat QB Zach Johnson. Manteca hasn’t been too shabby on offense, either. (27-7, Manteca)

Sierra (1-2) at Oakdale (3-0):  The Timberwolves were up and down in nonleague action but hope to have things figured out after a Week-3 bye. Oakdale is just too tough at home, though.  (35-20, Oakdale)

Weston Ranch (1-2) at Sonora (2-1):  After discouraging loss to Bear Creek at home, the Cougars will have a tough time getting back on track at Dunlavy Field — one of the toughest places to play for away teams. (36-13, Sonora)

Ripon (4-0) at Hilmar (3-1): Last week’s win over Argonaut proves that Ripon is for real, but Hilmar had a tougher nonleague schedule and gets an additional edge for playing at home. (26-21, Hilmar)

Le Grand (3-0) at Ripon Christian (1-2):  No team has a tougher start to the SL season than RC, which opens with Le Grand and Mariposa. The good news is that it gets much easier for the Knights. (42-20, Le Grand)

Last week: 2-4 (14-7 overall).

Lathrop High will try and notch its first Valley Oak League win in varsity play Friday when it hosts East Union on homecoming night.

East Union would love to spoil the festivities with a win of its own, which would be the first of 2011.

It’s a matchup pitting old-school offense against new-school offense: Lathrop (1-2) lines up in the run-based wishbone formation, while East Union (0-3) airs it out under the spread.

So far, the Lancers have struggled to stop the run, giving up over 300 rushing yards to Bear Creek and Ceres the last two weeks.

Quarterback Elijah Cash hands the ball off to third-year seniors Andrew Aquino, Christian Pena and bruiser Dennis Johnson for Lathrop. Aquino is the leading rusher and has four touchdowns.

The Spartans were matched up against passing offenses in their previous two contests. Kurtis Stamm passed for 312 yards and two scores for Highlands — a Sac-Joaquin Section Division-V playoff finalist — in a 22-15 win against Lathrop last week.

Perhaps that bodes well for East Union’s sophomore signal caller Joe Menzel, who has some big-play receivers in Diego Castillo and T.J. Williams to throw to.

It’s a big game for two teams in need of a confidence boost going into some tough games. On Sept. 30, Lathrop plays host to Sonora while EU takes on rival Sierra at home.

Kimball at Manteca

The Jaguars (1-2) of Tracy are looking to get even after last year’s 62-0 beat-down administered by Manteca (3-0).

Kimball is in its first season with a senior class but shouldn’t be taken lightly. It built some momentum with a 29-22 win over Tracy and played its other crosstown rival, West, tough for a half in a 29-13 loss the previous week.

Junior Zach Johnson is off to a nice start could be the VOL’s top dual-threat quarterback.

Sierra at Oakdale

Delete - Merge UpThe last time Sierra played at The Corral, it pulled out an epic 42-40 win. It was the first time since 2000 that Oakdale was defeated at home in a VOL game, and the Mustangs (3-0) haven’t been beaten there since.

Sierra (1-2) surely has its hands full against the league favorite, which reached the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III finals with five starting sophomores a year ago. The Timberwolves can’t afford to lose much more if they want to make a fourth straight postseason appearance.

Sierra is coming off a bye week.

Weston Ranch at Sonora

The Cougars (1-2) have a tough assignment after losing to Bear Creek.

Weston Ranch must find a way to slow down Sonora FB Nolan Dambacher, who is a load at 6-3, 220. And it will try and rebound offensively in front of a hostile crowd after getting shutout by Bear Creek on its own turf last week.

They share a common opponent in Calaveras, which beat Weston Ranch 27-15 in Week 1 but lost to Sonora 33-19 last week.

Ripon at Hilmar

The Indians (4-0) performed masterfully for their homecoming fans in a 33-19 victory over Mother Lode League favorite Argonaut last week. They hope to bring that magic down to Hilmar in their Trans-Valley League opener.

Hilmar (3-1) is no stranger to big wins this season, upending Division-I Modesto Metro Conference champion Enochs, 32-18.

Last season, the Yellowjackets were ravaged by injuries when they beat Ripon 21-14 on the road. Senior quarterback Andrew Olson has missed most of the last two years with injuries but is making up for lost time.

Le Grand at Ripon Christian

Of course the Knights (1-2) start the Southern League season with the conference’s top two teams after suffering losses to bigger schools in nonleague action.

Le Grand (3-0) is favored to repeat as league and SJS Division-V champion and has a realistic shot at earning a spot in the California Interscholastic Federation State Championship Bowl Games.

The Bulldogs return two of the SL’s top offensive players in QB Alex Bucio (69.6%, 595 yards, 14 TDs, INT) and 6-4 wide out Zach Moreno (16 receptions, 264 yards, 6 TDs).