Downey handed Mark Varnum his first loss as Manteca head coach in a Week 1 thriller last season.
And then he took his next defeat the following week.
Varnum and the Buffaloes will get their shot at revenge this Friday in Modesto as they begin an arduous stretch of the schedule. The Knights sneaked away from Guss Schmiedt Field with a 44-42 victory in the 2018 encounter.
“They are definitely motivated for this one and have been for 12 months,” Varnum said of his players. “They’re dialed in and ready to go.”
Manteca and Downey are ranked Nos. 18 and 19 in the Sac-Joaquin Section, according to MaxPreps ratings, and both teams feature two of the top pocket passers in the region. Tracy, the Buffaloes’ opponent in two weeks, is seventh. Before that matchup of traditional rivals, Manteca travels to Livermore on Sept. 6 for a rematch with Granada, which handled the Buffs 35-14 last season.
Varnum isn’t looking too far ahead knowing what’s in front of him.
Downey never trailed in its 49-30 zero-week win at East Union. Returning quarterback Bryce Gouker picked apart the Lancers defense for 293 yards and five touchdowns on 19-of-27 passing.
Across town, Manteca torched Lathrop 64-6 with Ryan Ward completing seven of eight passes for 273 yards and four TDs, all in the first half.
“Regardless of the score and all that, I’m happy with how cleanly we played,” Varnum said. “There were not a lot of Week 1 mistakes and penalties, and hopefully it carries over to Friday.”
Downey’s aerial assault continues to thrive despite losing its top two receivers to graduation — 6-foot-2 Anderson Grover amassed 1,164 yards and 15 TDs, and Bryce Peterson (748-6) went on to sign with UC Davis. Also gone is freshman QB Beau Green, who replaced Gouker (2 of 6, 14 yards) early in last year’s game at Manteca and wound up scampering for the go-ahead touchdown with 12 seconds left. Green threw for 284 yards and a pair of scores, but he has since transferred to Modesto Christian and Turlock.
Gouker is more than capable of running the show himself. Despite splitting time last season, he tallied 1,966 yards, 25 touchdowns and eight interceptions while completing 69.5 percent of his passes. Joseph Easterwood is among the new wide outs who have stepped up for the Knights. He had eight receptions, 145 yards and two TDs at East Union.
“His ability to run caught us off guard a couple of times,” Varnum said of Green, “but they have plenty of weapons and there is no shortage of receivers at that school. Their quarterback (Gouker) is slinging it, too. It’s his third year in that system and he knows it well.”
In other Week 1 matchups in the area:
East Union at Mtn. House: East Union takes on the defending Western Athletic Conference tri-champion Mustangs for the first time.
Both squads are coming off high-scoring losses to upper-division opponents. Mountain House returns few starters from its 2018 team that went 10-2 but has several breakout candidates. The Mustangs lost their season opener 46-28 despite outgaining Chavez 439-349 in offensive yardage.
Quarterback Timothy Cantu II accounted for 113 of their 323 rushing yards, scoring twice on the ground while adding two more touchdowns through the air.
Sierra at Central Valley: The Timberwolves are 9-0 all-time against Central Valley (1-0), which battered cross-town foe Ceres 55-13 last week.
Both teams return much of their key players at the skill positions. For Central Valley, it starts with senior QB Andrew Hernandez, junior running back Isaiah Hidalgo and 6-2 receiver Erick Martinez-Stucchi.
Hidalgo scampered for a career-high 205 yards to go with two touchdowns on 19 carries against Ceres, while Hernandez finished 17-of-22 passing for 254 yards and two scores. Martinez-Stucchi (four catches, 50 yards, TD) was one of four Hawks receivers with at least three catches.
Kimball at Lathrop: Two Manteca High graduates clash as head coaches for the second time Friday at Bennie Gatto Field.
Last season, it was Mike Kuhnlenz and the Jaguars who prevailed 27-26 against Joe Pirillo and Lathrop, which was done in by six turnovers.
Kimball has high hopes of improving on a 3-7 campaign thanks to returning talent such as 6-6, 232-pound Cal commit Kaleo Ballungay. He and the Jaguars showed well in their 27-12 loss to cross-town rival Tracy last week. Promising sophomore Nicholas Coronado is at quarterback.
Sonora at Ripon: The two small-school powers meet for a sixth straight season. It had been a one-sided affair until Ripon emphatically snapped a four-game skid against the Wildcats, 34-0.
Sonora opened with a 41-7 loss to longtime rival Oakdale, succumbing to a 34-point outburst in the second quarter after a scoreless first. The Wildcats lost their first four games last year and, with a roster packed with unproven players at the varsity level, may be set up to do so again with a brutal non-league schedule that includes Trans-Valley League juggernauts Ripon, Escalon and Hilmar.
Ripon Ch. at Stone Ridge: Ripon Christian proved it could compete with a solid mid-sized school last week, but the Knights are sure to be motivated after the frustrating 20-19 home loss to Grace Davis.
They’ll look to take it out on Merced-based rival Stone Ridge, which is 2-8 in the series. Ripon Christian rolled 63-12 in last year’s meeting. Stone Ridge fell to Vacaville Christian 31-15 in its season opener.