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ATHLETE OF THE WEEK: Blake Nichelson, Manteca football
Bulletin sports fall 2021
Blake Nichelson

Trailing 21-8 and with their star tailback out with injury, the Buffaloes looked to their multi-faceted junior to help lead a 44-36 comeback win at Turlock last Friday.

Nichelson finished with a varsity career-best 239 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 15 carries, adding two receptions for 41 yards and a touchdown. Defensively, he recorded seven total tackles, one for a 24-yard loss, a sack and forced a fumble that led to a TD.

He typically splits time at receiver and running back for the offense, but with standout Lyon Colon dinged up the past two weeks Nichelson has had more touches than usual.

“Blake just has another gear,” Manteca head coach Mark Varnum said about the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Division I prospect. Nichelson is highly recruited as an outside linebacker. “He’s gone above and beyond carrying the load as we are getting guys healthy. One of the best players in the (Sac-Joaquin) Section, at any level.”

Manteca started slow but got untracked in the middle two quarters, taking a 44-21 lead with 4:36 left in the third quarter. Nichelson scored on back-to-back plays from scrimmage — a 27-yard reception and 40-yard run — during that burst and capped it off with a backbreaking 91-yard dash. He helped set up that last TD with his sack and earlier aided Dominic Alvarez’s scoring 54-yard return by causing a fumble.

“Because there were so many injuries and people out, I had to step up my game and help the team out,” Nichelson said.

For the season, Nichelson has 717 rushing yards (11.4 per carry) and 10 touchdowns along with seven receptions for 164 yards and four scores. On defense, he has four sacks, nine tackles for losses.