Two Northern California titans will go toe to toe tonight at Manteca High’s Guss Schmiedt Field, where Valley Christian visits from San Jose.
Both teams are looking to atone for heartbreaking finishes to the 2016 season. Manteca (12-2) lost to Menlo-Atherton 49-21 in the CIF Northern California Division III-AA Bowl Game, while Valley Christian was held off by Madison in the Division II-AA state championship, 21-17.
Manteca head coach Eric Reis got to see what his team will be up against, as he traveled to Sacramento State’s Hornet Stadium to catch Valley Christian in action.
“We saw how good they were,” Reis said. “We think we’re pretty good, too, so let’s take it to another level. Playing them is definitely a new level for us.”
MaxPreps has Valley Christian (13-2) ranked 11th and Manteca 12th in its preseason top 25. Cal-Hi Sports has them at No. 27 and 34, respectively, in its top-50 state rankings.
The Warriors graduated their quarterback, top receiver and a pair of 1,000-yard rushers but return much of their talent on defense. Among the standouts are defensive back/receiver D’Angelo McKenzie (54 tackles, two INTs) and 6-foot-4, 210-pound defensive end/tight end R.J. Stone (88 tackles, 13.5 sacks), whose father Ron Stone played on the San Francisco 49ers offensive line in 2002-03.
Both are highly recruited, with McKenzie receiving offers from Notre Dame and UCLA and Stone from several Pac-12 schools. Alton Julian, a 6-2, 185-pound cornerback is another touted prospect.
Here’s a look at the other zero-week contests in the area.
Ripon at Sierra
Ripon is extra motivated for its season opener at Sierra’s Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium.
Last season, the Timberwolves escaped Ripon with a 22-19, and tonight’s contest will be a reunion for first-year Sierra coach Chris Johnson. He coached at Ripon, his alma mater, for 12 seasons — with current Indians coach Chris Musseman serving as his top assistant — and stepped down after the 2015 season. These two schools will meet for a sixth straight year, with Sierra winning three of the previous five.
Another reunion is in order, as former Lathrop coach Steven Wichman (2012-14) returns to Bennie Gatto Field. He’s in his first season in leading West of Tracy, where he was a standout quarterback and graduated from in 2002.
Lathrop raced away from West 21-14 in last year’s season opener. A strong start is crucial for Joe Pirillo’s Spartans, who have tough road games at Hilmar and Franklin of Elk Grove coming up.
Weston Ranch rolled to a 40-13 win at Ceres last season, but both squads since lost much of their starters to graduation.
Ceres has brought up sophomore quarterback Dalton Durossette to the varsity after spearheading the Bulldogs’ sophomore team to a 7-3 record. He’s the son of head coach Bret Durossette. Andrew Gibson
(817 yards from scrimmage, 10 TDs) returns at running back.
Ripon Christian at
It’s a key match-up for the two small-school programs that will meet for the first time tonight. The game takes place at West High’s Steve Lopez Stadium in Tracy.
Millennium has good size in the trenches and return its returning rushers in junior Isaiah Woods (1,012 yards, 13 TDs) and Jenoah Gandall (617 yards, six TDs).