Manteca is well rested and ready for its first Valley Oak League game of the season.
The Buffaloes (4-0) head to Kimball (3-2) of Tracy on Friday after a two-week layoff. They’re fresh off their bye, but in the previous week Damonte Ranch called off their anticipated matchup in Reno because of unsafe air quality from the Mosquito Fire.
The last time they were in action, the Buffs battered Turlock 59-22 on homecoming, outscoring the Bulldogs 24-0 in the second half while Florida State commit Blake Nichelson tallied six touchdowns.
Manteca has revenge in mind after losing to the Jaguars last season, 58-41. It was the Buffaloes’ first-ever loss to Kimball after winning the first 11, mostly in routs. Both of Manteca’s starting running backs, Nichelson being one, went down with ankle injuries in the previous meeting.
Kimball is led by a new cast of characters at key spots but remains as dangerous as ever. First-year head coach Derek Graves has kept things rolling for the Jaguars after their historic 10-2 campaign. They’ve had close losses against cross-town foe Tracy, 34-32, and reigning Sac-Joaquin Section Division V champion Escalon, 30-22, but own a noteworthy 30-29 triumph over Lincoln of Stockton.
The Jaguars had the top passing attack in the SJS last season and continue to thrive under new quarterback Jayden McKey. He has completed 64.2 percent of his passes for 686 yards and 10 touchdowns against three interceptions, while rushing for 202 yards and two more scores. His two best receivers are returner Travis Marieiro (24 receptions, 325 yards, five TDs) and Darius Doyle (24-381-8).
Sebastian Tate is again Kimball’s leading rusher with 505 yards (6.5 per carry) and five scores.
Here’s a look at other Week 6 contests in the area:
East Union (3-2) at Central Catholic (1-4): Throw records out the window for this VOL opener.
No team in the league has been as tested as Central Catholic, which took a 65-0 thrashing from St. John Bosco — the No.1-ranked team in the country by MaxPreps — in Southern California. Other losses were to Central Coast Section juggernauts Saint Francis of Mountain View and Serra of San Mateo and Holy Bowl rival St. Mary’s. The Raiders’ last three opponents are 15-0.
Central started its season with a 41-19 win at Merced. The Raiders are led by quarterback Tyler Wentworth (34 of 71, 555 yards, six TDs), running back/linebacker Tyler Jacklich (586 rushing yards, five TDs) and receiver/defensive back Seth Hernandez. They also boast hulking linemen such as 6-foot-2, 380-pound Roman Foumai and 6-2, 346-pound Troy Leota.
Sierra (1-4) at Oakdale (4-1): After facing mostly spread offenses in their first five contests, the Timberwolves get to open VOL play against one of the top Wing-T teams in the Sac-Joaquin Section.
Oakdale rolled Enochs 51-7 at The Corral last week and has won three straight since a 39-29 defeat against CCS power Aptos.
As usual, the Mustangs have no shortage of weapons in their offense with the likes of Cameron Guthrie (41 rushes, 504 yards, three TDs), Jace Rau (39-413-6), Brian Delte (52-335-8) and Gabe McDonald (43-261-2) sharing the load.
Dual-threat quarterback Mickey Merzon, son of longtime coach Trent Merzon, has added 215 yards and three touchdowns to the ground attack while completing 24 of 38 passes for 316 yards and four TDs.
Beyer (0-5) at Lathrop (2-3): The Spartans will get chance to right on homecoming night Friday when winless Beyer of Modesto visits. They split their first two Western Athletic Conference games on the road, stunning previously unbeaten Ceres while falling short at Pacheco last week, 29-23.
With the exception of their 42-35 loss to Modesto, the Patriots have struggled to get untracked offensively, averaging just 6.5 points in their other four games.
Although there are tough opponents ahead, Lathrop does have home-field advantage on its side with four of its next five games taking place at Bennie Gatto Field.
Ripon (3-3) at Riverbank (0-5): The Indians enter a soft spot in their otherwise daunting Trans-Valley League schedule.
It starts with the winless Bruins, who have been shut out in four of their five contests, so far. Their most competitive game was a 42-21 defeat to Valley Christian.
Riverbank has dropped 36 straight since winning back-to-back against Madison Park Academy and Delta at the start of the 2018 season.
Ripon took a tough 34-14 loss at Hilmar last week, falling to 1-1 in league. Next week is its bye, followed by a home game against 2-4 Livingston.
Ripon Christian (3-2) at Waterford (2-3): Both suffered road defeats in Week 5, but with the parity in the Southern Athletic League they are still very much in the race.
Ripon Christian was done in by two big passing plays in a 21-7 loss at Orestimba, while Waterford struggled with turnovers in dropping a 49-35 decision to Le Grand.
Running back/strong safety Eli Rutherford leads the Wildcats. He has 457 rushing yards, 169 receiving and 11 total touchdowns. He’s also their tackles leader with 37.
Oscar Peral (25 receptions, 479 yards, eight TDs) is the top target for quarterback Caleb Hilton (56 of 105, 848 yards, 13 TDs, five interceptions). The tandem hooked up for four touchdowns at Le Grand.