There’s a special bond that exists between quarterback and coach, which makes this Friday’s rivalry tilt between Manteca and East Union, well...
A bit awkward.
Longtime Manteca offensive coordinator Neil MacDannald helped groom his team’s biggest threat to an outright city championship, East Union sophomore Jack Weaver.
In his first varsity season, Weaver has guided East Union back to the land of relevancy. The Lancers are 3-6 going into their season finale and light years better than the 1-9 teams that preceded his arrival. East Union is young and brimming with confidence – two traits that adequately describe the Boy Scout under center.
“This week we have a great opportunity to start our rise to the top,” Weaver said, “because this week we’re playing a very good Manteca team, as usual.”
MacDannald has rooted and cheered for his former pupil. The two worked together while Weaver was coming up through the Ripon Knights youth ranks – the same club that produced Central Catholic’s Hunter Petlansky.
MacDannald, who has coached young QBs from Escalon to Modesto at camps and in private sessions, raves about Weaver’s footwork ... his ball ... his ability to keep plays alive with his feet ... his attitude ... and his competitive drive.
He has all the tools to be great, MacDannald said.
Just not tonight, he hopes.
Here are four other players who could impact the final scoreboard in the 46th installment of the city’s oldest rivalry:
LECHI NKWOCHA, Manteca DE – East Union sophomore quarterback Jack Weaver has shown an ability to burn team’s with his improvisational skills. When a play breaks down, Weaver can use his feet or his arm to rescue it, whether it’s getting outside the pocket and into space or flipping a Favre-like shovel pass down field. Manteca will look to contain Weaver by dominating the edges of the line of scrimmage with its outside rush. That’s a big assignment for Manteca’s defensive end/outside linebacker Lechi Nkwocha, who had 29 tackles and a team-high 3.5 sacks through the first eight games, according to MaxPreps. His numbers are down considerably from last season when he finished with 10 sacks and 75 tackles, but with his tracking speed and strength, Nkwocha can easily go on a sack binge. East Union and Weaver just hope it doesn’t start on Friday.
JOE REYNAGA and ISAAC HUFFMAN, East Union MLBs – East Union’s sophomore middle linebackers will likely find themselves matched up with Manteca High running back Hector Soto, whose running style has been likened to a Hall of Fame running back. “He reminds me of Emmitt Smith,” East Union defensive coordinator Jason Stock wrote in a message to The Bulletin. “Low to the ground, good pad level, and hits the running lanes (at) 100 mph.” Reynaga and Huffman will be the ones filling those lanes, and if the Lancers expect to have any success, they’ll have to win that 1-on-1 battle and limit his yards after contact. Soto gashed Sierra’s defense for nearly 200 yards and two touchdowns last week, but had the help of an extra lineman. Manteca debut its “Thunder” package, utilizing Steven “Bacon” Martinez as a fullback to neutralize the Timberwolves’ hard-hitting middle linebacker Trevon McCray.
ANGEL ROBLERO, East Union RB – All week long, East Union coach Willie Herrera has reminded his senior class of this moment. Friday will be the final game for Angel Roblero and the Class of 2015. Roblero has been the vocal and spiritual leader for the Lancers, and if anyone in red is poised to have a breakout game, the 6-foot-2, 225-pounder would be the safe bet. “We’ve been in his ear. ‘This is it. This is your Super Bowl. This is your playoff game. How are you going to end it?’ It’s motivated him and all the seniors,” Herrera said. “He’s ready to get after it.” Roblero has been the chief ball carrier in East Union’s Wing offense, amassing more than 600 yards. The Lancers hope to grind out time-consuming drives, limiting Manteca’s number of possessions. To do so, they’ll ask Roblero to move the chains in 4-, 5- and 6-yard increments. His success could open things up in the passing game for Weaver and 6-foot-4 wide receiver Austin Miller, too. Those two were shut down by Weston Ranch. Weaver finished 1-of-14 passing with his only completion Miller on East Union’s final drive.
DAKARAI CHARLES, Manteca QB – Manteca coach Eric Reis said East Union has shown a tendency to blitz often in defensive coordinator Jason Stock’s scheme, so this Friday’s game will be an interesting test for Dakarai Charles, Manteca’s first-year varsity quarterback. Will he be able to manage the emotions of the city’s oldest rivalry, while reading the pressure? While Soto is the workhorse in that offense, Charles (40-of-68 passing, 735 yards, 9 touchdowns, 2 interceptions) sets the tone. If the Lancers bring the heat, as Reis expects they will, Charles’ ability to scramble and make plays outside the pocket may bolster the offense. He had runs of 6, 10 and 15 yards in last week’s victory over Sierra, and in the past, his feet have bought wide receivers Luis Reyes and Ronaldo Tijero time to find the empty spaces in a defense. One thing is for certain, Manteca has to keep Charles upright. With the postseason just around the corner, the Buffaloes don’t want their QB taking any big hits, especially while standing in the pocket.