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BUFFS HOLD OFF CATS
Trout, Gouveias defensive plays secure win
MHS4-10-15-11
Sonora quarterback Dylan Fernandes releases the ball on an option toss but gets nailed by Manteca lineman Isaac McClain in the process. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Joe Trout wasn’t his normal self in Manteca High’s celebratory postgame huddle following its rousing 34-32 homecoming victory over Sonora Friday.

He used the team’s symbolic shepherd stick to help prop his battered body up to join in, but there wasn’t enough in him to be fully engaged.

Trout was beat, and understandably so.

Even as fatigue set in late, the senior linebacker-fullback clutched up to make a biggest play in a game full of them, and it’s the reason for the 2-point difference.

Austin Davis gave Sonora (3-1 Valley Oak League, 5-2 overall) a chance at tying it with 2:28 remaining when he scooted 33 yards up the right sideline for a touchdown.

On the 2-point conversion attempt, quarterback Dylan Fernandes faked a handoff and broke to his right. Fernandes had one defender to beat. Trout won the battle at the 1 ½-yard line, and the Buffaloes held on to keep their perfect record intact.

“I was tired, but I told myself that I am a captain and a senior — we aren’t going to lose this game,” Trout said. “I was not going to let them get that 2-point conversion.”

Count Danny Gouveia in as another crunch-time hero.

Taking advantage of a blitz from Sonora that left a gaping hole up the middle, he rambled 86 yards on third-and-13 with 4:51 remaining for Manteca’s final points. The point-after kick was missed to keep the door ajar for Sonora.

“There was an enormous hole, so I just hit it and ran as fast as I could,” said Gouveia, who led Manteca with 131 rushing yards on 15 carries.

Sonora got the ball back on Manteca’s 30-yard line thanks to a 54-yard kickoff return Davis but couldn’t capitalize. On the next play, Fernandes (6 of 10, 111 yards) hit Nolan Dambacher for a 24-yard pass play up the middle, but Gouveia had the presence of mind to knock the ball loose from behind, and it was he who recovered it with 4:29 to go.

Manteca tried to run the clock out but was held to just one first down before punting it. Karson Canaday’s 18-yard return set up Davis’ 33-yard score.

The Buffaloes’ next attempt to secure the win on offense lasted just four plays, but Gouveia again came up huge on defense.

Starting its final drive from its own 21 with 53.5 seconds left, Sonora went with a trick play that backfired. Mark Relei, a 6-foot-7 receiver, caught a short pass spanning 5 yards and he pitched it backwards to Cristian LaPertche, who never had full possession of the ball. That’s because Gouveia nailed him to jar the ball free, and Anthony Lopez recovered it for the Buffs.

Sonora fumbled five times and lost four of them.

“I saw it developing into a hook and lateral,” Gouveia said. “I knew I had to hit the guy and tried to hit him as hard as I could.

Then there’s Ryan Fox, filling in for injured starting quarterback Alex Martinez (thumb) for a second straight game.

The junior signal caller didn’t need to throw much in his first start — a 28-7 win over Sierra — but was the Buffaloes’ top offensive producer on Friday.

Fox finished 8 of 14 for 192 yards and a touchdown, and he ran in the team’s first two scores from 1 and 3 yards out. His beautiful over-the-shoulder toss to tight end Matt Kuhnlenz led to a 65-yard catch-and-run TD with 4:51 left in the third quarter, making it 21-13 Manteca.

“I’m excited and kind of stunned,” said the humble Fox. “I don’t know how, but I had some good plays. I just learned from Martinez, and (offensive coordinator Neil MacDannald) prepard me well for this game.”

Eric Ceja caught four passes for 62 yards, and he scored on a 29-yard reverse on the first play of the fourth quarter. T.J. Galdos contributed three catches for 65 yards and was on the receiving end of a 34-yard pass play on the first play from scrimmage. That jump started an impressive 6-minute, 22-second scoring drive.

Manteca ended up with 433 yards of offense (241 rushing) to Sonora’s 410. Physical fullback Brandon Camara had 12 rushes go for 141 yards and three touchdowns, while Davis finished with 10 attempts for 126 yards. The Wildcats piled up 297 yards on the ground.

Both teams struggled with penalties and combined for 27 — two of them offsetting and another declined.

It was a costly win for the Buffaloes. They lost their second-leading rusher Cameron Harvey, who is also the squads leading pass rusher (5.5 sacks), and two-way lineman Daniel Clemons to lower-leg injuries early un the first quarter

“These guys have a tremendous amount of heart,” said Manteca coach Eric Reis. “We had guys get hurt all over the place, and I don’t know how much of the team we have left.

“But we got a big win, which makes it that much more special. It’s one of my proudest moments as a head coach here.”