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4-sport star chooses football for next level
SIGNING file pic
A four-year varsity standout in soccer, Manteca High senior Marcus Montano began placekicking for the football team during his sophomore year. Hell take his talents to NAIA champion Southern Oregon. - photo by HIME ROMERO/ The Bulletin

Marcus Montano and his booming right foot are taking the next step.

The Manteca High senior has accepted a partial scholarship to kick footballs for Southern Oregon, the reigning NAIA national champions.

“He’s such a smart athlete and has a real gift to kick the ball,” said Manteca coach Eric Reis, who pulled Montano up to the varsity as a sophomore after watching him deliver on a 45-yard field goal as a freshman.

“For him to go to the NAIA national championship team, that’s a pretty special thing. Southern Oregon has had a special program for a long time. It’s a great opportunity for him.”

A Valley Oak League Outstanding Kicker recipient and rare four-sport varsity athlete, Montano says the Southern Oregon coaching staff has given him the chance to compete right away for a starting gig.

He said that opportunity – to contribute to a championship-caliber program in his first year – was the deciding factor in his college plans.

To be certain, Montano, who played eight varsity sports in his final two seasons of high school, had a lot of irons in the fire.

He was being courted by Weber State, a pair of small North Dakota colleges and Shasta College in Redding for football.

The track and field programs at UC San Diego, Cal Poly Pomona and Pacific in Oregon had shown interest in his jumping ability.

And there were discussions with the soccer coaches at Notre Dame de Namur and Stanislaus State that never quite materialized.

In the end, Southern Oregon felt like home. Montano said the program reminded him of the Buffaloes’ tight-knit family.

Their trophy cases bear a striking resemblance, too.

With Montano, Manteca made three Sac-Joaquin Section playoff appearances, won the 2013 Valley Oak League and Division III championships, and reached the school’s first-ever NorCal regional bowl game that same season.

The Raiders competed for a much bigger prize last fall. Southern Oregon won its first-ever NAIA football title with a 55-31 win over Marian (Indiana).

“That’s where I felt I could be the most successful, in terms of the next level,” Montano said. “They were coming at me pretty heavy. I was getting calls every other day just to check up. They kept me up to date about everything. You could tell they were pushing for something with me and I definitely took that into consideration.”

In three seasons, Montano made 164 of 171 extra points and averaged 55.3 yards on his kickoffs with 118 touchbacks.

He has cleared 60 yards on field goals in practice but was just 1 for 3 in his career. Reis said that phase of Montano’s game was overshadowed by the Buffaloes’ power run game.

“You ask coach (Rick) James; when you can put teams on the 20-yard line and tell them to drive 80 yards to score, that’s not easy,” Reis added. “I consider that a huge weapon.

“His upside in the future, especially when he gets to focus on punting and kicking, he’s only going to get better and better. They’re picking up a good football player.”

Montano, ever the busy body in the classroom and athletic arena, isn’t content with just playing football.

Southern Oregon has launched a men’s soccer program and Montano says he’s been invited to tryout. The prospects of building a program is enticing for the Bulletin’s three-time Striker of the Year. Montano tallied 80 goals and 40 assists in 95 varsity games.

He was also an all-VOL second-team selection in football and played in the 6 County All-Star Classic last week. In track, Montano won the 2014 VOL championship in the high jump.

“He’s such an athletic kid. To be that good in soccer, basketball, football and track?” Reis said. “He’s just a true athlete.”