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WEEK 8 PREVIEW: Manteca wants to end winless streak against Central Catholic
Bulletin sports fall 2021
Lyon Colon, left, looks to make a block for ball carrier Blake Nichelson during Manteca’s season-opening win against Downey on Aug. 20. - photo by Wayne Thallander


Friday’s games

East Union at Weston Ranch

Manteca at Central Catholic

Sierra at Kimball

Mariposa at Ripon Christian


Byes: Lathrop, Ripon 

Is this the year Manteca breaks the Central Catholic Curse?

The Buffaloes (3-0, 7-0 overall) are 0-6 against the parochial power from Modesto since the Raiders invaded the Valley Oak League in 2014. They will reunite Friday at David Patton Memorial Field for a colossal confrontation between two of the top teams in the Sac-Joaquin Section — Central Catholic and Manteca are ranked fourth and fifth in the SJS, respectively, according to MaxPreps computer ratings. 

With comfortable wins over Oakdale and previously-unbeaten Kimball, Central Catholic (3-0, 6-1) puts itself in prime position for an outright league title by continuing its mastery of Manteca. For the Buffs, this is just the start of a demanding closing stretch that includes Kimball at home and a Week-10 jaunt to The Corral in Oakdale.

Manteca has had some tough moments against CC over the years, starting with the 2014 overtime classic won by the Raiders 27-26 on a two-point conversion. The last time they faced off in 2019, Manteca mostly outplayed a wounded Raiders team but was ultimately done in by two failed conversions in the red zone, 11 penalties and a blocked PAT in a 29-28 heartbreaker.

Central Catholic played an independent schedule during the pandemic-shortened spring season.

“We’ve seen everything imaginable against these guys,” Manteca coach Mark Varnum said. “We just have to play clean football and not make mistakes.”

Manteca will look to a trio of former Raiders to help get it over the hump. Running backs Lyon Colon and Blake Nichelson transferred from Central Catholic in the summer of 2020 and contributed to the Buffaloes’ promising 4-1 over the spring. Joining them this past offseason is quarterback Hudson Wyatt, who was at Central two years ago and played for Downey’s varsity as a sophomore in the spring.

“I’d be lying if I said they didn’t (have this game circled),” Varnum said. “They want this one real bad. They’ve been locked in all week in practice and in film. They know these guys real well, and we’ll do what we can to get the ‘W’ for them.”

Nichelson has made quite the splash during his breakout junior campaign. A 6-foot-2, 205-pound playmaker on both sides of scrimmage, he is the state scoring leader, according to MaxPreps, with 27 touchdowns and 182 points — also good for No. 3 in the nation. Offensively, he splits time between tailback (1,104 yards, 12.8 per carry, 20 TDs) and wide receiver (12 catches, 280 yards, six TDs) but is being recruited as a linebacker (36 tackles, seven sacks). Nichelson holds offers from Boston College, Fresno State and Oregon State, according to his 247sports profile.

His emergence has helped make up for injuries to other skill position players, including Colon (456 yards, nine TDs). The speedy senior has missed one game while trying to play through multiple injuries, most notably a broken finger, but Varnum insists he is rounding back into form.

As for Wyatt (17 of 35, 311 yards, three TDs, INT), his midseason addition makes Manteca multidimensional in its attack. He had to sit out the first five games of the season because of SJS transfer rules.

“Now that we have everything all together, it’s all hands on deck,” Varnum said. “We want to be able to balance it out. With everybody back, we want to get everyone involved and make it harder for teams defend it.”

Central Catholic also feels it is hitting its stride at the right time, and its recent performances is proof of that.

Julian Lopez returned from injury and played a part in the Raiders’ 55-16 blowout of Kimball last week, rushing for 102 yards and four touchdowns. The 6-1, 225-pound running back missed four games with an injury, but 5-11, 210-pound Aiden Taylor (793 yards, 16 TDs) has done well to carry the load in the meantime.

Central now has its interchangeable two-headed monster back in the I-formation, which also features sophomore quarterback Tyler Wentworth — his dad, Kevin Wentworth, was multi-sport star for Manteca in the 1980s.

For these Raiders, however, it all starts up front. They got even beefier with the recent addition of Patterson transfer Roman Foumai, listed at 6-2, 400 pounds. Central Catholic was already big in the trenches with the likes of 6-6, 355-pound Jacob Edmond and 6-2, 290-pound Jericho Machado, who leads the Raiders with 30 tackles and 4.5 sacks.

“They are just huge up front and they come right at you with two big, powerful backs,” Varnum said. “They want to play smash-mouth football. We’re going to have to play sound football and make some plays. Hopefully on the other side of the ball we can make some things happen.”

In other Week 8 contests:


East Union (4-3) at Weston Ranch (1-7): The Lancers come out of their bye week refreshed following a bitter 40-34 overtime loss at Manteca.

Now 1-2 in the VOL, any chance for a piece of the title may be slim but they can at least further cement their spot in the postseason. This is also an opportunity to fine tune the spread offense led by quarterback Luke Weaver and wide out Dylan Lee, who leads the SJS with 834 receiving yards.

East Union’s final two regular-season games are at home against Central Catholic and Kimball. Weston Ranch plays its final game next week against visiting Oakdale.


Sierra (1-7) at Kimball (6-1): The Timberwolves travel to Tracy to take on one of the most prolific passing attacks in the nation.

Third-year QB Nicholas Coronado leads the state and is 10th in the country with 2,613 passing yards to go with 32 touchdowns and four interceptions. His main targets are Willie Clifton (795 yards, 11 TDs), Mason Rivera (715-8) and Travis Marieiro (652-7), who are all ranked in the top six in the SJS in receiving yards.

Sierra gets an odd Week 9 bye before wrapping up with Central Catholic at home.


Mariposa (4-3) at Ripon Christian (4-3): The Knights are coming off back-to-back losses, which hadn’t happened since 2017.

The good news for Ripon Christian is that the toughest part of its schedule is almost complete. Mariposa represents that final test. Quarterback Wyatt Green leads the Grizzlies’ balanced attack, and he has big targets in 6-3 Landon Robinson and 6-2 Case Frank.

Mariposa’s lone loss in Southern Athletic League play was to Orestimba, 41-7, Ripon Christian held off the Warriors, 45-42.