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Kickoff returns spark Buffs in second half
Mantecas Nick Gatehouse goes for the diving tackle on the Sonora quarterback during Fridays sophomore game at Gus Schmeidt Field. - photo by HIME ROMERO

After a defensive battle in the first half, a kickoff return ignited a back-and-forth scoring barrage in Manteca High’s 26-20 sophomore victory over Sonora Friday.

Alex Laurel’s 85-yard runback doubled the Buffaloes’ first-half lead to 12-0 on the first play of the third quarter.

Sonora answered with two scores to tie it, but Manteca retook the lead on a 45-yard kickoff return from Matt Wilkerson, whose big play came on an onside-kick attempt from the Wildcats. Elijah Cooper’s 2-point conversion run made it, 20-12.

In the fourth, quarterback Buddy Reeder gave Manteca the lead for good with an 8-yard touchdown scamper.

Running back Michael Gonzales led the offense with 127 yards on 18 carries.

“Special teams were huge this week,” Manteca coach Adam Liel said. “Returning back-to-back kickoffs were awesome, especially to start the second half. Our defense stepped up big in the fourth quarter and made plays to keep us in the lead.”

It was a nice bounce-back victory for the Buffs, who were coming off their first loss of the season -- 25-16 to Sierra. Manteca improved to 3-1 in the Valley Oak League, 5-1 overall.

“It was a positive response after playing very poorly last week,” Liel said. “We gave our team a chance to win tonight and still play for a championship.”

Sierra 35, Kimball 17

The host Timberwolves (4-0, 6-1) knocked off another major threat to their quest for the VOL title. Kimball entered the contest with the same overall record as Sierra, and its lone loss came against Manteca.

Bryson Sanders had a productive night on both sides of scrimmage. On defense, he intercepted three passes, and on the other end he caught two touchdown passes from Jake Pruitt.

Reid Maestas rambled for two touchdown scores on the ground. Sierra also got some big catches from Luke Widmer, and Jonathon Montoya contributed a pick.

Oakdale 21, East Union 8

How about this for a brutal schedule to end the season? The Squires (2-2, 4-2) kicked it off with Friday’s loss to visiting Oakdale. Next is Kimball, Sonora and Manteca -- all title-contending squads.

“We have our work cut out for us, but I know our team is up for the fight,” EU coach Ron Clayton said.

On Friday, the Squires were held to 124 yards of offense -- 58 passing, 66 rushing. Oakdale amassed 283 yards on the ground. Jake Danhoff (5 of 12, interception) scored on a 1-yard keeper which was made possible by Eddie Duabi’s drive-saving catch of 14 yards.

“We matched up well physicall but mentally we made a lot of errors,” Clayton said.