The Buffaloes appear to be peaking at the right time.
So said Manteca High varsity soccer coach Justin Coenenberg.
He may have a point. Take Wednesday's Valley Oak League match against Sierra, for example.
His Buffaloes scored three first-half goals and held on for a 4-1 upset victory at Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium.
"We've been working on our passing and ball possession," said Coenenberg, whose team leaped frog past the Timberwolves in the VOL standings.
The hard work paid off.
Manteca (6-2-2, 10-4-3 overall) is now in second place, trailing East Union by three points in the standings. Sierra (5-2-3, 11-4-3) slipped to third place.
"This game was huge," said Buffalo senior defender Oral Nunis. "We knew that coming in. We even talked about it at school."
Manteca scored in the opening two minutes, with forward Charlton Shankar initiating the attack with his cross-field pass that deflected some 15 yards in front of the Timberwolves' goal. Ignacio Valdovinos seized the golden opportunity by drilling the straightaway shot.
Sierra had numerous opportunities early on. Amir Guedoir barely missed on a breakaway and had another attempt gobbled up by Manteca goal keeper Brandon Diaz, who finished with 14 saves, including nine in the first half.
Shortly before the intermission, the Buffaloes scored twice within 40 seconds.
Cesar Reyes' unassisted breakaway goal was quickly followed by Shankar's goal off a nifty pass.
Ahead 3-0, the Buffaloes were aware that no lead was safe.
"Our plan was to manage the second half," Coenenberg said.
Sierra immediately went on attack, loading up its lineup with more scoring threats. Dominic Alejandre scored on a header, taking a pass from Guedoir to closing the gap, 3-1.
The Timberwolves, riding their momentum, missed a golden opportunity to make it a one-point lead, missing on the one-on-one scoring chance.
The Buffaloes made them pay, with Valdovinos getting his second goal of the game by taking a nicely placed pass from Marcus Montano and delivering on the quick-strike score.
Sierra coach Jose Montes noted that the series of events proved to be a game changer.
"We had the momentum but we lost it after that," he said.
Montes was disappointed that his team had plenty of scoring chances but, for the most part, came away empty.
"But at the same time, you to have give it up to the Buffaloes," he added. "They came ready to play."
To reach reporter Vince Rembulat, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org