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WEEK 6 PREVIEW: Kuhnlenz's homecoming redux
Manteca alum returns as head coach for rival East Union
Bulletin sports fall 2021
East Union head coach Mike Kuhnlenz talks with quarterback Luke Weaver during their non-league game against Atwater on Sept. 10. - photo by Wayne Thallander


Thursday’s game

Lathrop at Beyer (Johansen)


Friday’s games

East Union at Manteca

Sierra at Weston Ranch

Riverbank at Ripon

Waterford at Ripon Christian

Mike Kuhnlenz is returning to Guss Schmiedt Field this Friday for Manteca High’s homecoming, and his last visit as head coach of the opposing team wasn’t pleasant.

Then the coach for Kimball in 2019, he and the Jaguars were trounced by his alma mater, 84-20.

“I didn’t have a very good time at the last one,” the 2006 MHS grad said. “Now I’m at the rival school in town, if you even call it a rivalry — it has been pretty one-sided for quite a few years.”

Kuhnlenz won’t be the only former Buffalo on the opposing sideline. Joining him are defensive coordinator Nick Ortiz and junior varsity head coach Mike Barber, both former Manteca football standouts.

They are hoping to turn the tide in their first season with East Union. The Lancers (1-1 Valley Oak League, 4-2 overall) have the tall task of facing an undefeated Buffaloes team coming off its bye week and welcoming the long-awaited debut of transfer quarterback Hudson Wyatt.

Manteca (1-0, 5-0) is 39-13-1 against its oldest city rival and have won 19 of the last 20 meetings. The Buffs have taken nine straight since the 2010 upset that spoiled their bid for a perfect 10-0 regular season. What has traditionally been a Week-10 matchup is now taking place much earlier. They did not get to face off during the pandemic-shortened spring season, as East Union cancelled because of COVID-19 protocols.

Kuhnlenz has since taken over at the “red school” and installed the same spread offense that has undefeated Kimball on pace with Manteca. The Buffaloes have seen plenty of the spread already this season having beaten Downey, Patterson, Cosumnes Oaks and Turlock.

“That’s what we did it for,” Varnum said of Manteca’s non-league schedule. “There are a couple VOL teams (that run the spread) as do teams that we see in the playoffs. We saw some good ones, so hopefully that pays off for us.”

East Union and Kimball have two of the most prolific quarterbacks in the Sac-Joaquin Section in Luke Weaver and Nicholas Coronado, respectively. For the Lancers, Weaver has thrown for 1,618 yards and 11 touchdowns while running for 396 yards and 12 scores.

Varnum and the Buffaloes look forward to unleashing their QB in Wyatt, a junior who played for Downey’s varsity in the spring. He was ruled ineligible by the Section for the first six weeks of the season.

Wyatt’s arrival makes Manteca even deeper on both ends of scrimmage. Sophomore Garrison Reis served admirably as his placeholder, but he’ll now get

Bulletin sports fall 2021
Garrison Reis throws from the pocket during Manteca’s blowout win at Sierra on Sept. 17. - photo by Wayne Thallander
to slide over to tight end on offense while getting reps at linebacker on defense.

“(Wyatt has) been chomping at the bit for weeks,” Varnum said. “I’m super proud of how poised and positive he has been. Those five weeks could be tough for anybody. (Reis) did an amazing job and I couldn’t be prouder of that kid. He is a football player who can play just about anywhere, and it’s great to have him around.”

With Wyatt sidelined, Manteca has relied mostly on the strength of its running game starring Blake Nichelson, who is the second-leading rusher in the SJS with 904 yards (13.1 per carry) and 15 TDs.

East Union wants to set the tone early after struggling at Oakdale’s homecoming two weeks ago. The Lancers went on to lose that game 59-13, and they are working for a better showing going into their bye week.

“We came out a little flat (at Oakdale),” Kuhnlenz said. “And when you do that against a quality opponent like Oakdale you’re going to be in for a long night. If we don’t come out ready to rock and roll on Friday it could get ugly. We gotta make sure we’re on our ‘A’ game, because if you’re off for just one play Manteca will take advantage of it, for sure.”

Here’s a glance at other Week 6 contests:


Sierra (0-6) at Weston Ranch (1-5): Snake-bitten by COVID-19 protocols and injuries, Sierra has a chance to reverse its fortunes after getting trounced by city rivals Manteca and East Union by a combined 127-7 score the past two weeks.

The Timberwolves have had six different offensive lines to start the season and is hoping to get the offense on track Friday. They’ve been held to seven or less points in five of their six contests so far.

Weston Ranch has also struggled against top competition in recent weeks, losing to Kimball and Central Catholic 105-6 in its first two VOL games.

The Cougars have a pair of promising sophomore running backs in brothers De’antae and Deandre Lavan. Sierra has its own in Anthony Grady. The T-wolves own a 15-2 all-time series lead against their fManteca Unified foe and have won three straight.


Lathrop (4-1) at Beyer (0-5): Winners of four straight the Spartans are on a roll behind a stout defensive front led by outside linebacker Noah Martinez and third-year lineman Harold Gary.

They’re favored to extend that winning streak tonight at Johansen, where winless Beyer awaits. Last week, the Patriots were pounded by Ceres 56-8, a team Lathrop dispatched 23-6 in the Western Athletic Conference opener.

Beyer is back to rebuilding after claiming the outright conference crown in 2019. The Patriots are averaging just six points and have been blown out in every game so far. Lathrop is positioned to make a run for the WAC championship. Staying sharp and healthy is the goal. Next week, the Spartans head back to Modesto to face undefeated Grace Davis.


Riverbank (0-4) at Ripon (4-2): After repelling previously-unbeaten Hilmar 7-3 in a defensive battle, the Indians will look to get the Wing-T attack back on track on Homecoming.

Riverbank missed its best opportunity to get a win last week but came up short against Modesto Christian, 30-22. Ripon mauled MC 56-12 two weeks ago.

This should be another routine victory for the Indians, who are faced with a challenging stretch ahead with Livingston (4-2), Escalon (4-1) and Hughson (4-2).



Waterford (5-0) at Ripon Christian (4-1): The winner of this Southern Athletic League showdown could be in sole possession of first place at the end of the night. Mariposa is also unbeaten in league but has a tough task at Orestimba.

It’s shaping up to be a week-to-week dogfight for Ripon Christian, the two-time defending champion. The Knights are coming off a thrilling 45-42 win over Orestimba, and the gauntlet resumes with Le Grand and Mariposa the next two weeks.

They’re of course not overlooking Waterford, which outlasted Le Grand 49-33 last week. Quarterback Aaron Adams starred in the win, completing 16 of 23 passes for 239 yards and four touchdowns while rushing for 156 yards and two touchdowns. Ryan Hilton added 122 yards and a touchdown.