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WEEK 7 PREVIEW: Buffs going strong
Manteca on a roll heading into rivalry showdown with Sierra
Manteca-Kimball football
Manteca fullback Alijah Cota tries to break free from Kimball lineman Aveon Brown while meeting Darius Doyle (11) near the goal line. - photo by SEAN KAHLER

One team is rolling, and the other is rebuilding.

Manteca has won its first five games in convincing fashion while preparing for its venture into the daunting Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoffs. On Friday, they host Sierra (1-5), which is working toward restoring its former glory under returning coach Jeff Harbison.

Manteca has long dominated this cross-town rivalry, holding a 21-6 series lead while winning 11 of the last 12. The Timberwolves’ last victory over the Buffaloes came in 2012, 35-26.

Modesto-Sierra football
Sierra running back Anthony Grady extends the stiff-arm against Modesto’s Melea Uili. - photo by Wayne Thallander
Sierra had a tough assignment to start Valley Oak League play, falling to Oakdale 56-16 at The Corral last week. The T’wolves have had varying results with Harbison’s spread offense, which helped bring much success to the program in his first stint.

Second-year junior running back Anthony Grady has been the sparkplug, both as a rusher (642 yards, 4.2 per carry, 11 touchdowns) and as a pass catcher out of the backfield (22 receptions, 215 yards, two TDs). He tied a program record with seven touchdowns while erupting for 301 total yards from scrimmage in a 59-27 win over Modesto.

Tim Sarginson has been a revelation behind center after starting the season as the backup quarterback. He has completed 70 percent of his passes for 783 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions. Joey Mendez is the top receiver with 19 catches, 254 yards and four scores.

Sierra has struggled defensively, giving up 42.8 points per game. That does not bode well against Manteca, which tallied 55 or more points in its last three contests and is averaging 53.6 while winning by an average margin of 36.6.

The Buffaloes trampled a very good Kimball team 55-19 in their VOL opener, outscoring the Jaguars of Tracy 34-6 in the second half.

Two-way star Blake Nichelson continues to impress with his playmaking abilities on both sides of scrimmage. He’s Manteca’s leading rusher (604 yards, 8.3 per carry, 10 TDs), leading receiver (12 receptions, 275 yards, six TDs) and is a major contributor at all levels of the defense.

Running back/defensive end Bryson Davis (417 rushing yards, seven TDs) is having a breakout season, and Hudson Wyatt (27-of-43, 480 yards, seven TDs) has been a steady contributor at quarterback.

Manteca is ranked 11th in Northern California by MaxPreps, and 39th in the state by Cal-Hi Sports.

A look at other Week 7 matchups:


Oakdale (5-1) at East Union (3-3): The Lancers get the VOL’s three heavyweights in succession. They were outmatched against reigning SJS Division II champion Central Catholic in a 62-13 drubbing last week.

The next two Fridays, they face the SJS Division III finalists at home. Oakdale visits Dino Cunial Field first, and next week it’s Manteca. East Union has dropped 28 straight decisions to the Mustangs, a streak that began in 1994.

The Lancers surrendered 60-plus points in each of their last two contests and more than 500 yards of offense against Central Catholic.

Oakdale’s vaunted Wing-T has found its groove after the Mustangs split their first two contests. They’re now on a four-game winning streak, amassing more than 50 points in each game.

Led by junior Cameron Guthrie, Oakdale boasts four rushers with 300-plus yards and dual-thread quarterback Mickey Merzon is not too far behind them. The Mustangs ground out 506 yards in their homecoming rout against Sierra.


Grace Davis (2-4) at Lathrop (3-3): Lathrop has yet to string together back-to-back wins this season, and it has a good shot to do so against the reigning Western Athletic Conference champion.

Grace Davis is 1-2 in the WAC after dropping its last two against Los Banos, 32-17, and Pacheco, 28-0. Lathrop (2-1 WAC) dropped a 29-23 heartbreaker at Pacheco two weeks ago but rebounded with a 34-0 homecoming romp of Beyer. Up next is winless Johansen on the road.


Livingston (2-4) at Ripon (4-3): The Indians blasted Riverbank 48-0 to improve to 2-1 in the Trans-Valley League, and now they’re hosting a team desperate for a win.

Livingston’s record is a bit deceiving. The Wolves are 0-2 in league after getting drubbed by co-leaders Hilmar and Hughson. They started the season with one-score setbacks to Le Grand and Livermore. Those four teams combined are 21-5.

Livingston is led by returning senior running back Carlos Baez, who was named the TVL’s Outstanding Offensive Back last season.

Ripon can take some momentum into its bye week with a win Friday. The Indians close the regular season with rival Escalon and Hughson.


Le Grand (5-1) at Ripon Christian (4-2): Both teams are 2-1, each with close losses to Southern Athletic League leader Orestimba. Their wins are blowouts over Denair and Waterford.

The Bulldogs from Le Grand are hoping to repeat as SJS Division VII champions and has reason to like their chances with many contributors from the 2021 team returning, including quarterback Julio Buco, receiver Reyes Diaz and 6-foot-1, 290-pound lineman Fermin Villegas.