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WEEK 2 PREVIEW: Old rivals are reuniting
After 3-year break, Battle of I-5 returns with Lathrop hosting Weston Ranch
Bulletin sports fall 2021
Jeremiah Estante holds the Battle of I-5 rivalry trophy while surrounded by his Lathrop teammates before practice on Tuesday. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO/The Bulletin


Tonight’s game

Pacheco at Sierra


Friday’s games

McNair at East Union

Cosumnes Oaks at Manteca

Weston Ranch at Lathrop

Ripon at Center

Ripon Christian at Calaveras

Lathrop running back Jeremiah Estante has a message for his next opponent:

“I want to thank Weston Ranch, because they beat our league rivals, Mountain House,” he said, referencing the Ranch’s thrilling 26-24 Week 1 triumph.

That, more or less, sums up the dormant football rivalry between Lathrop and Weston Ranch, which have not locked up on the gridiron since 2017. The current Sac-Joaquin Section realignment cycle kicked in the following school year when Lathrop was moved out of the Valley Oak League and into the Western Athletic Conference.

Since then, the Spartans have forged a new tug-of-war for a perpetual trophy with Mountain House — the Old River Rivalry aka the “Battle for the Paddle.”

This Friday, Lathrop and Weston Ranch get reacquainted at Bennie Gatto Field for the Battle of I-5. Both are 1-1 and coming off of wins, which only helps heighten the anticipation of their next game. Lathrop took care of Mt. Diablo 49-26 last week.

Bulletin sports fall 2021
Weston Ranch safety Christopher Buttram is joined by linebackers Christian Cortes (45) and Zyale Brown-Sanger (50) as they converge on Mountain House ball carrier Orlando Syph-Timmons last Thursday, Aug. 26. - photo by Wayne Thallander

Second-year Cougars coach Ron Wayman was an assistant back in 2013 when then-head coach Seth Davis christened this budding rivalry with its current name.

Weston Ranch won the first Battle of I-5 affair 35-29 and it was its fifth in succession over its neighboring Manteca Unified rival. Lathrop, however, claimed the next four and will look to even the all-time series this week.

Offensive coordinator Clayton Buttram was a Weston Ranch player in the 2013 win, but there otherwise isn’t much of a connection to the fledgling rivalry from the Cougars’ perspective.

“He and I are probably the only two here who remember it,” Wayman said. “I would say it was definitely a fierce rivalry. You had two schools that were both young and the student-athletes then grew up with each other, so they lived for this game. There was something on the line because we were both VOL schools. When Lathrop went to the WAC, it got kind of (lost) in the shuffle.”

Lathrop’s first-year coach, Ryan Teicheira, was part of the Sierra staff back when the Spartans were tangling with Weston Ranch. While the rivalry is still new to him, the Battle of I-5 does has some meaning for a few of his players.

Lineman Chris Subia, for example, has a familial link to Battle of I-5 1.0 — his brother-in-law, Diego Chavez, was the quarterback for the 2014 Spartans squad that gave the program its first varsity win over Weston Ranch, 31-20. Chavez and Co. won the rematch more decisively, 35-7, and Lathrop went on to make its first — and so far only — postseason appearance in school history.

“He played against them all four years, so this means a lot to me because I’m sort of carrying that legacy for Diego,” Subia said. “Hopefully we can continue this rivalry for our juniors, sophomores and the years to come.”

Estante had a front-row seat to those 2014 and 15 Spartans wins. He has been involved with the program since the sixth grade when he was a ball boy on game day.

“I was there when they got into the locker room screaming and picking me up for pictures and stuff after they won this,” Estante said as he was holding the Battle of I-5 trophy before practice Tuesday. The trophy features a helmet bearing the logos and colors of each school on opposite sides, and results of past contests are engraved on the stand.

“To be able to come here and be one of the captains on this team, I want to do what they did,” Estante continued. “Those guys were like big brothers, and it’s like, I want to do what you guys did.”

Weston Ranch quarterback and linebacker Namir Brown-Sanger said his team is also motivated for the battle to come. He starred in the win over Mountain House, rushing for 177 yards and three touchdowns, passing for 75 yards and a touchdown and coming up with two sacks on defense.

“We just want to go over there and get our trophy back,” Brown-Sanger said. “We obviously haven’t seen it in like eight years and I haven’t had the chance to play Lathrop yet, but we still want to win.”


Here’s a look at other Week 2 contests:

Pacheco (0-1) at Sierra (0-2): One of these teams are leaving Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium with its first win of the season tonight.

Sierra lost its first two games to Hughson and Acalanes by a combined score of 108-6, but its struggles have extended beyond the field as multiple players have had to sit out every week because of coronavirus health and safety protocols.

Pacheco is looking to bounce back from a 10-6 loss to Central Valley. Like Sierra, the Panthers started the season with low numbers. They’ve shifted from a veer offense to the double wing and are led by junior QB Adael Diaz and a veteran line. Diaz scored Pacheco’s lone TD last week but had three of his 16 passes intercepted. Sophomore linebacker Abel Bravo had nine tackles and forced a fumble.


McNair (0-1) at East Union (1-1): The Lancers have an opportunity to get back on track following their 42-13 loss to upstart Windsor out of Sonoma County.

McNair, looking to break a string of four straight losing seasons, was dropped 40-14 in its season opener at Calaveras. The Eagles were set to face Lodi last week, but the game was called off because of unhealthy air quality from the Caldor Fire.

They showed their potential in San Andreas, taking the opening drive 89 yards for a touchdown and later scoring on an 85-yard kickoff return to close in 20-14 by halftime before Calaveras took over with its running game.

East Union also has some tightening up to do on the defensive end after giving up more than 400 yards to Windsor. The Lancers and McNair meet for the first time Friday.


Cosumnes Oaks (0-1) at Manteca (2-0): Friday marks just the second time that the Buffaloes match up with the Wolfpack from Elk Grove.

They last faced off 10 years ago, with 14th-seeded Cosumnes Oaks upsetting the SJS Division III No. 3 seed 14-0 at Guss Schmiedt Field. The rematch 10 years in the making of course comes with an entirely different set of circumstances.

Cosumnes is now a Division II school and competes in the Delta League, arguably the toughest conference in the SJS behind the Sierra Foothill League. The Wolfpack were drubbed at Oak Ridge, an SFL power, 42-0 two weeks ago but had its next contest canceled by the smoke. QB/S Steven Duran III is among Cosumnes Oaks’ top playmakers on both sides of scrimmage.

Manteca will see a spread offense for a third straight week. So far, so good for the Buffs, who thumped Downey and Patterson by a combined 90-31 score the first two weeks.


Ripon (0-2) at Center (1-0): Speaking of rematches, this one came to fruition on Tuesday as both were seeking to fill a vacant spot in their respective schedules.

Ripon was originally going to play East Nicolaus on the road, but the Sutter County school had to call it off because of a COVID-19 outbreak on campus. Center is looking to avenge a 21-13 loss to the Indians, who pulled off what was deemed an upset in the 2019 SJS Division V championship game. Ripon went on to capture a state title, but of course much has changed in the personnel since.

The Indians are hobbling going into Antelope after coming up short in Sonora on Monday, 32-20. Meanwhile, Center is well rested after rocking Rio Linda 68-7 on Aug. 20. The Cougars’ game with Burbank was canceled because of poor air quality.


Ripon Christian (1-1) at Calaveras (1-1): Two teams with small rosters square off in the Mother Lode on Friday after both took tough losses to talented squads. Calaveras was shut out by reigning state champion Escalon 41-0, while Ripon Christian couldn’t keep up with speedy Sacramento, 35-7.  RC was matched with Sacramento just two days before they kicked off. The Knights were supposed to play East Nicolaus in Week 1.

Calaveras also had to deal with a last-minute change, as it moved its home game to Escalon because of the air quality. Penalties, turnovers and Escalon’s prolific Wing-T were too much for Calaveras to overcome. Calaveras was held to just 68 yards of offense, according to the Calaveras Enterprise.

Ripon Christian and Calaveras have never previously met in football but were all set to do so in the second round of the 2019 SJS Division VI playoffs. Calaveras wound up forfeiting the game two days before kickoff after self-reporting use of an ineligible player.