Joey Rohles is going to see some familiar faces on Friday.
Now head coach at Lodi, the lifelong Mantecan will stand across from friends and family as Manteca High visits for a non-league contest.
Rohles, a 2003 Sierra graduate, served as lower-level head coach and varsity assistant at Manteca alongside his younger brother Brian and their dad Buck the past five years. He still has weekly conversations with Manteca head coach Mark Varnum and considers JV co-coaches Ryan Culpepper and Daniel Johnson two of his best friends.
“There are still a lot of people at Manteca High I love and respect,” Rohles said. “But the thing for me, it’s about the kids. Almost every kid on that varsity squad I’ve coached at one point in time, so it’s been fun to watch them on film and see how they’ve developed.”
It won’t be the first time that he was on the opposing sideline from his brother, father and the rest of the Buffaloes. In 2015, Rohles was part of the Central Valley coaching staff when the Hawks took on Manteca in a well-contested Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoff opener won by the Buffaloes, 31-28.
Like Manteca, his Flames are 2-2 and rested from their bye week. Lodi opened the Rohles era with losses to Pleasant Grove and Downey but bounced back with one-sided wins over McNair and Franklin of Elk Grove.
Rohles said it took a few weeks for his team to adjust to a new-look offense, but the Flames found their groove with senior Matthew Shinn as the centerpiece of the flexbone formation. The dual-threat quarterback has thrown for 364 yards and seven touchdowns and rushed for 448 yards and seven TDs.
Manteca is looking to avoid a third straight loss after getting trounced by St. Mary’s and Rocklin, two of the top four teams in the SJS according to MaxPreps rankings. The Buffaloes have struggled offensively with star running back Bryson Davis nursing an elbow injury.
Rohles is expecting the best version of Manteca no matter who is suited up for the Buffs.
“I’ve been trying to explain to (his team) what the Manteca High mentality is all about,” Rohles said. “We need to play tough, and we have to be ready to fight for all four quarters. I’m excited for my team, because I know what Manteca High brings to the table. The kids will learn a lot about themselves and about football in general.”
It’s the final tune-up for league play for both teams — Lodi opens Tri-City Athletic League play next week at St. Mary’s, while Manteca kicks off the Valley Oak League schedule at home against Kimball.
By then, Rohles won’t mind seeing his kids wearing some of the Manteca gear he has accumulated.
“My son (Reyes) still wears the t-shirts,” Rohles said. “This morning (Wednesday), he came out with a Manteca football camp shirt, looked at me and said, ‘What? It’s not Friday.’”
Here’s a look at other Week 5 contests in the area:
East Union (3-1) at Lincoln (2-2): Riding a three-game winning streak and rested from its bye, East Union has an opportunity to end its non-league schedule with a bang.
The Lancers would like to avenge their 61-22 loss to the Trojans of Stockton, who have since lost three-star quarterback Kenyon Nelson to graduation.
Three-star running back Jordin Thomas has emerged as Lincoln’s workhorse. The 5-foot-9, 190-pound junior holds six NCAA Division I offers and is one of the top rushers in the SJS with 831 yards (8.6 per carry) and 12 touchdowns.
Pacheco (1-3) at Lathrop (2-2): The Spartans have won back-to-back after holding off Ceres 28-21 in their Western Athletic Conference opener. Lathrop was the dominant team but allowed big plays late that gave the Bulldogs some hope of a comeback.
Pacheco took a tough 28-26 home loss to upstart Johansen. The Panthers are led by punishing running back Abel Bravo (384 yards, six TDs). Both teams have a lopsided non-league loss to Bradshaw Christian.
Liberty Ranch (1-2) at Ripon (2-2): Coming out of its bye, Ripon gets a good litmus test before diving into the rigorous Trans-Valley League gauntlet.
The Hawks from Galt visit Stouffer Field with some momentum after outlasting Nevada Union, 40-28. They share a common opponent with Ripon, losing to Linden 48-24 in Week 2. The Indians won their season opener at Linden, 49-42.
Liberty Ranch’s other loss was to still-unbeaten Rio Americano 28-27 in Week Zero. The Hawks have had two byes, as their game with 4-0 Orosi was cancelled.
They’re led by dual-threat quarterback Kymani Fenika (246 yards, one TD passing; 144 yards, three TDs rushing). Their Wing-T also features junior back Joseph Brown, the Hawks’ leading rusher (340 yards, 7.2 per carry, four TDs) and receiver (143 yards, TD).
Liberty Ranch had its most successful season last year, going 10-0 in the regular season. It was upset in the SJS Division V quarterfinals as the No. 3 season. The Hawks lost most of their starters from that squad but have reloaded with young talent that finished 8-1-1 at the JV level.
Orestimba (2-2) at Ripon Christian (3-1): This will be the final time this rising rivalry takes place in the Southern Athletic League. Next year, they’ll make the TVL — long hailed as the best small-school league in the state — even deeper.
These two have had some epic showdowns in their eight-year history, and they’re even at 4-4. The result has oftentimes decided the SAL champion. Ripon Christian could not overcome injuries and costly mistakes in the 2022 meeting won by the Warriors, 21-7. Orestimba went on to claim the league title, while RC rolled to the SJS Division VII championship.
The Knights have crushed their last three opponents by a combined score of 159-0 but are expecting resistance from battle-tested Orestimba, which owned its title defense with a 49-36 win at previously-unbeaten Le Grand.
Jacob Valenzuela (21 of 39, 230 yards, two TDs, INT) has taken over at quarterback of the Warriors’ spread offense in place of Alex Millan, who got injured in their 34-14 defeat to WAC champion Los Banos. Juan Esquivez (655 yards, 9.0 per carry, 10 TDs).