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WEEK 9 PREVIEW: Slowing the stampede
Sierra prepares for prolific Manteca as playoffs near
Bulletin football 2019
Manteca standout receiver Jacob DeJesus looks to evade Sierra’s Holden Fishburn on Oct. 19 2018. They’ll reunite Friday at Sierra for the 25th meeting between the rival schools. - photo by File photo by WAYNE THALLANDER

Manteca has never shied away from announcing its long-term goals.
Friday is another step toward achieving them.
The Buffaloes (3-1, 6-2 overall) are on a roll since their razor-thin Valley Oak League-opening loss to Central Catholic, and they carry that momentum into their 25th meeting with intra-city rival Sierra (2-2, 6-2) on Friday. Manteca leads 18-6 all-time with six straight wins, and the last two were not close — 63-0 in 2018 and 50-7.
Head coach Mark Varnum expects his team to remain sharp with the postseason fast approaching. Manteca’s regular season ends next week with East Union coming to Guss Schmiedt Field.
“I don’t have to do a whole lot of motivating the next two weeks,” Varnum said. “We’re treating them like playoff games, and for us the playoffs begin now. If we take care of business this week, that locks up a first-round bye and gets us closer to the ultimate goal.”
That ultimate goal is a first CIF state championship.
A VOL title is still in reach despite the early loss to Central Catholic. If Manteca wins out and Oakdale beats Central Catholic in Week 10, that forces a three-way tie for first place and could land the Buffaloes in the Division III bracket for a third consecutive year.
Sierra has a spot secured in Division IV, but coach Chris Johnson doesn’t talk much about the playoffs until it begins. The Timberwolves’ goal remains to be better than they were the previous week. They’re coming off a mistake-filled 34-7 win at East Union following successive losses to Central Catholic and Oakdale.
“Our biggest opponent wears blue,” Johnson said. “Are we being the best versions of ourselves? We don’t feel like we’ve played our best football yet, so there’s a lot of room for improvement.”
It only gets tougher for Sierra, which looks to slow down a Manteca attack that scored 55, 80 and 73 points in wins over Oakdale, Kimball and Weston Ranch the past three weeks. The Buffaloes are led by reigning All-VOL Offensive Player of the Year Jacob DeJesus (1,163 total yards, 18 TDs) and running back Trabron Russell (913 yards, 13 TDs).
“Extremely talented football team that is well coached,” Johnson said. “They’re playing very well right now. They have a lot of kids who can break a big one any time they touch the football.”
Both coaches stressed that winning the battles at the line of scrimmage is key.
Sierra counters with junior running back Kimoni Stanley, who has pounded his way to about 1,200 yards to go with 23 touchdowns.
“They’re playing with a lot of confidence,” Varnum said of the T’wolves. “They have a running back who is an absolute stud, so we have to do our job and try and bottle him up a little bit.
“It should be a good game. It’s always fun playing these guys no matter what he records are.”
In other Week 9 action:

Weston Ranch at East Union: East Union (0-4 VOL, 3-5 overall) remains as the lone bubble team in the area. It’s simple for the Lancers: win out, and they’re in.
They’re one away from their fourth overall victory, the minimum required to qualify for the postseason. Then it’s on to Manteca.
East Union has dropped four straight, and Weston Ranch (0-4, 1-6) is on a five-game skid while giving up 62 or more points in every defeat during that stretch. The Cougars lead the all-time series with their district rival 10-5 but have lost the last three.

Los Banos at Lathrop: With a playoff berth beyond their reach for a fourth straight year, the Spartans (1-4, 1-7) will look to put a scare into another Western Athletic Conference title contender.
Last week, Lathrop traveled to Johansen and battled valiantly with one of the WAC co-leaders, losing 27-19 due to costly mistakes. Johansen is part of a four-way tie for first place that includes Los Banos (4-1, 4-4) — a reigning tri-champion.
It’s the end of a tough four-week stretch for the Spartans, who cap the season next week with the “Battle for the Paddle” against winless Mountain House.

Ripon at Hughson: Ripon (3-1, 7-1) vaulted up to the No. 6 spot in the Cal-Hi Sports small schools state rankings because they knocked off the previous No. 1 Escalon 42-21 last week. Hilmar has already split with the two, so a tri-championship is in play.
Barring upsets, Ripon has tiebreaking advantages, namely point differential, over Escalon and Hilmar and will be considered the top team in the TVL for playoff purposes. That means the Indians would again play up Division V while their league rivals are in VI.
They’re probably not overlooking Hughson, however. The Huskies (2-2, 4-4) may need to win one of their last two to make the playoffs, and it doesn’t get much easier next week at Escalon.

Le Grand at Ripon Christian: The Knights (5-0, 7-1) have given up just seven points — all scored by reigning Division VII state champion Denair — in five Southern Athletic League contests, four of them ending in shutouts.
Only Le Grand (3-2, 5-3) and winless Delhi stand in the way from another perfect finish in league, which again elevates them to the tougher Division VI bracket. The 2019 campaign has proven to be more dominant for Ripon Christian, which travelled to Mariposa last week and returned with a resounding 48-0 win that put it in the driver’s seat for the repeat title.