TRACY — What a difference a half can make, and not necessarily for the better.
Manteca came out against host Tracy hitting on all cylinders Friday night, scoring the game’s first 27 points and leading by 28 at halftime. But it took a fourth-down pass deflection by Dom Rea in his own end zone to kill the Bulldogs’ last scoring opportunity and secure a 34-20 non-league win for the Buffaloes at Wayne Schneider Stadium.
“It was a great first half,” Manteca coach Mark Varnum said. “But the second half left something to be desired. We tried to warn them and warn them at halftime, but we came out a little flat in the third quarter.
“We fumbled the ball right away in the third but I am proud of how we responded at the end there and dug in. Defense got that big stop at the end, but we have to do better.”
Between the hot hand of Ryan Ward and fleet feet of Trabron Russell and Jacob De Jesus, the Buffaloes (3-1) racked up 307 first-half yards, but finished with just 377. Conversely, the Bulldogs (1-3) had 104 yards in the first half and finished with 362.
“I would like to say the difference in the two halves was some great coaching adjustments,” Tracy coach Matt Schrout said. “But the kids figured some stuff out on their own and they finally started to believe in it. Up front we have been struggling, but in the second half we got it going and they played a lot better.
“On defense we made some player adjustments and we started tackling, and you have to be able to tackle. Manteca’s really good, and we haven’t been really good, but I think this half is going to get us going.”
Ward (5 of 8 passing, 135 yards, two touchdowns) got Manteca on the board with a 13-yard pass to Sunny Dozier barely three minutes into the game for a 7-0 lead. Following a Tyler Yeager interception four plays later, it took Trabron Russell (20 carries, 148 yards) two carries to cover 23 yards with the last 9 good for a touchdown run and a 14-0 lead.
Later in the opening period Russell scampered in from 42 yards out to make the score 21-0.
“In the first half I saw huge holes,” Russell said. “I knew we were going to do something and that we were going to grind it out. That was a good football team but we were going to be the better football team because we are better conditioned and well coached.
“It was a good first half. I really liked what the linemen did and how we all worked in sync together.”
Russell turned the reigns over to Jacob De Jesus in the second quarter. By halftime Dejesus (six carries, 72 yards, touchdown; two receptions, 89 yards, touchdown) tallied touchdowns on an 18-yard run and an 85-yard pass from Ward for a 34-6 lead going into the locker room.
“In the first half we came out flying,” De Jesus said. “We came out strong, running the ball and throwing the ball, doing everything we could.
“It just worked out good for us.”
Along with Dominik Neuharth, Evans Nicolas and Oscar Anaya, Marc Buenrostro applied tremendous pressure in the Tracy backfield and picked up multiple sacks. Late in the third quarter he stopped a Tracy drive when he recovered a fumble caused by Neuharth.
“Everybody was on their game tonight,” Buenrostro said. “It was a great team effort.
“I wouldn’t have been able to get those sacks if the DBs weren’t covering tight and the backers were covering as well.”
It starts to count next Friday when Manteca hosts defending Valley Oak League champion and Sac-Joaquin Section Division II runner-up Central Catholic to kick off the VOL campaign. The Raiders have suffered through a brutal non-league schedule and are 0-4.
Manteca 21 13 0 0 — 34
Tracy 0 6 14 0 — 20
M — Sunny Dozier 13 pass from Ryan Ward (Kevin Thornburg kick), 8:56
M — Trabron Russel 9 run (Thornburg kick), 7:24
M — Russell 42 run (Thornburg kick), 1:47
M — Jacob De Jesus 18 run (kick fail), 11:37
T — Angel Muela 23 run (kick fail), 5:42
M — De Jesus 85 pass from Ward (Thornburg kick), 5:03
T — Logan Fife 3 run (Matthew Guilacci kick), 10:20
T — Riley Revino 25 run (Guilacci kick), 7:37