Rejuvenated from its bye week that followed two strong efforts against top teams, Manteca is locked and loaded for its anticipated annual encounter with Oakdale.
The Sac-Joaquin Section Division III finalists from a year ago will meet Friday at Guss Schmiedt Field, and the host Buffaloes (0-1, 2-3 overall) will have all of their weapons available for the 98th meeting between these longtime Valley Oak League rivals.
Junior Trabron Russell returns to the backfield after suffering an ankle sprain in Manteca’s Week 2 loss to Granada. The Buffs will also have wide receiver Jorge Cedano, who was flagged twice for unsportsmanlike penalties and ejected on their final drive of a 35-28 defeat at Central Catholic. The team’s appeal was upheld, as no suspension was reported.
Cedano caught 11 passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns at Central Catholic. Jacob DeJesus, the third member of what Manteca coach Mark Varnum calls his “Big 3,” erupted for 160 yards and two scores, while junior quarterback Ryan Ward (24 of 42, 332 yards, four TDs) enjoyed a career night.
“Having to weeks two prepare, get healthy and get everybody back, we’re feeling pretty good,” Varnum said. “Having the Big 3 is huge for us because it opens up the offense.”
Manteca and Oakdale split their two 2017 games, with Manteca claiming a second straight section title, 34-17. The Mustangs lead the all-time series, which goes back to 1923, 52-42-4.
Much of the 2017 standouts on both sides have graduated, and Oakdale (2-0, 5-1) began the season with 22 new starters. Sophomore Zeke Saffar is among the Mustangs’ rising stars in the Wing-T offense. Their only loss was to San Jose powerhouse Archbishop Mitty, ranked 32nd in Northern California by MaxPreps.
“Their system has been successful for so long that it doesn’t matter who is playing for them,” Varnum said. “I’m sure they have revenge on their mind for this game, and they’re going to bring everything they have. They are young but very talented, so we’re definitely going to have to play to our abilities.”
Here’s a closer look at other Week 6 contests in the area:
East Union at Central Catholic: Like Manteca, East Union ends its toughest stretch of the season this Friday.
The Lancers (1-1 VOL, 2-4 overall) ended a three-game skid last week, surging past Kimball 39-27 on homecoming night behind breakout efforts from QB Eric Morales (12 of 21, 188 yards, four TDs) and WR Lorenzo Contreras (101 yards, three TDs).
The bad news for East Union is it may be without wingback Raylen Carter, who injured a knee late in the second quarter and did not return to action. The Lancers are already without RB Leo Bonilla (knee), who is expected to return following their Week 7 bye.
Central Catholic (2-0, 5-1) has separated itself as the title favorite after fending off Manteca in the VOL opener. The Lancers will see quarterback Dalton Durossette (26 of 40, 540 yards, six TDs) for a second straight year; he started behind center for Ceres in 2017 before transferring.
Orestimba at Ripon Christian: The Knights (2-0, 5-0) creamed two previously-unbeaten opponents — Waterford and Denair — to start Southern League play.
And now comes the doozy. Three-time defending SL champion Orestimba (2-0, 4-1) puts its 23-game league winning streak on the line Friday when it visits the city of almonds.
Ripon Christian has been a tough nut to crack so far, averaging 43.8 points against just 6.8 surrendered. The Warriors, who average 44.6 points, may be the team that finally tests that defense. Their prolific passing attack features All-SAL Offensive Player of the Year Jacob Bettencourt (78 of 121, 1,285 yards, 13 TDs, five INTs; six rushing TDs), first-team wide out Tyler Vargas (37 receptions, 580 yards, nine TDs) and Jacob Dominguez (18-505-4).
Ripon at Livingston: The march toward s second consecutive Trans-Valley League title resumes for the Indians (2-0, 6-0) after clobbering Riverbank 74-0 on homecoming.
They get another tune-up match against Livingston (0-1, 1-4) before their bye week and brutal closing stretch against Escalon (0-1, 4-1), Hughson (1-1, 4-2) and Modesto Christian (2-0, 6-0).
Ripon’s defense will again look to feast against a struggling Livingston squad that has scored just seven points in its last three losses. The lone victory was 42-7 against winless Delhi. Wolves QB Enrique Vazquez (600 yards, four TDs, 10 INTs) was replaced last week by freshman Rocklin Baptista.
Lathrop at Beyer: The Spartans (1-1, 1-4) are facing the Western Athletic Conference’s Modesto schools these next three weeks starting with Beyer (0-2, 1-4) tonight at Johansen.
It’s a good time for Lathrop to pick up some confidence-building wins — Beyer, Grace Davis and Johansen combine for a 2-13 record. Beyer is coming off a 44-21 loss to Ceres, which ended a 10-game skid.
The Patriots have scored a total of 20 points in their previous four contests and average 132 yards of offense. Lathrop has had its own struggles in its first year in the spread, but sophomore Isaac Ramos (417 yards, three TDs) and Sebastian Iniguez (443 yards, four TDs) have been consistent performers.