STOCKTON — Manteca High was back at Sanguinetti Field Friday looking to avenge an early season loss to St. Mary’s High.
But it was the Rams who once again prevailed, putting an end to the Buffaloes’ season with 41-12 victory in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II semifinal clash.
“St. Mary’s is a great team with speed everywhere,” said Manteca coach Mark Varnum, who was pleased with his team’s effort despite the loss.
Speed was displayed by Asante Carter, who led the way by scoring five touchdowns including four in the first half for top-seeded St. Mary’s (11-1). He finished with a game-high 119 yards on 16 carries.
“He just fines a little seam inside and gets those tough yards,” Rams coach Tony Franks said of his senior running back.
He added: “(Carter) is a mouthful when it comes to shoulder pads. When you come up to tackle that guy, you are going to get shoulder pads.”
No. 4 Manteca (9-3), the defending champion, opened with plenty of promise from the outset — a stark contrast from that first meeting in September.
Jhadis Luckey returned the opening kickoff to his own 35, followed by Bryson Davis and freshman running back Nikko Juarez reeling off runs of 15- and 31- yards, respectively.
The Buffaloes drove the ball down to the St. Mary's 4 only to be turned away.
Behind quarterback Samson Hunkin, the Rams went the length of the field from that point, with Carter capping the drive with a 20-yard touchdown run.
He was just warming up.
Luckey had another strong return, taking the ensuing kickoff to midfield while giving his team good field position.
Quarterback Garrison Reis hit tight end Joshua Mellion for 21 yards, setting up Davis' 5-yard scoring run.
Tied 6-6, St. Mary’s took control of the second quarter.
Overcoming a sack by Mellion, the Rams used some trickery to set up their next score. Receiver Kenneth Moore III delivered a 33-yard option pass to Ivan Huerta, who was stopped inside the Manteca 24. Carter took over there, going the distance to hit pay dirt.
Manteca was unable to mount much offensively during that span. St. Mary’s added two more scores to take a 27-6 halftime lead.
Carter scored on touchdowns of 6- and 3- yards while adding a two-point conversion run.
Hunkin completed all six of his passes in the first half for 96 yards.
Early in the third quarter, the St. Mary’s quarterback — scrambling to avoid the Buffaloes pass rush — connected with Huerta, who raced 46 yards for the touchdown. Matthew Kain’s kick upped the lead, 34-6.
The Manteca defense forced St. Mary’s to a pair of three-and-outs along with its first punt of the game during the rest of the quarter.
But at the start of the fourth, Carter scored his fifth touchdown on a 28-yard run.
The Buffaloes closed out the scoring with Reis finding the recently called up Cameron Jimenez on a 27-yard pass nearing the final two minutes,
“We weren’t scared and we didn’t back down at all. We just didn’t finish a few times on both sides,” said Varnum.
Davis (injury) and Juarez, who was still playing at the lower levels, were among those absent from the first meeting with St. Mary’s.
Davis finished with 69 yards on 17 carries. Reis completed nine of his 12 passes for 97 yards.
In the end, Varnum was pleased that his team continued to hammer away late in the game despite the scoring deficit.
“These guys never quit and kept fighting to the bitter end — they have nothing to be ashamed of,” he said.
Dave Campbell contributed to this report.
Manteca 6 0 0 6 — 12
St. Mary’s 6 21 7 7 — 41
S — Asante Carter 20 run (kick fail), 4:41
M — Bryson Davis 5 run (kick fail), 1:20
S — Carter 24 run (kick fail), 9:58
S — Carter 6 run (Matthew Kain kick), 5:56
S — Carter 3 run (Carter run), 1:05
S — Ivan Huerta 46 pass from Samson Hunkin (Kain kick), 10:52
S — Carter 28 run (Kain kick), 11:52
M — Cameron Jimenez 27 pass from Garrison Reis (run fail), 2:35