Ronnie Green had a hand — or foot, rather — on both scoring plays of the revived East Union-Manteca alumni football game Friday at Dino Cunial Field.
The second one was actually for his team and made up the margin of East Union’s 7-6 thrilling, though understandably sloppy, victory in which there were more turnovers and penalties than points scored — none of which came on offense.
Two games organized by Alumni Football USA (www.alumnifootballusa.com) were played Friday, first featuring 2002-10 graduates of Manteca and Sierra followed by the Manteca-East Union showdown of older alumni. The last alumni football game played in town was in 1994 between Manteca and East Union, the Manteca Unified School District’s two oldest high schools.
In the late game, Green (Class of 1992) had a punt blocked by Manteca’s Thomas Christopher with 7 minutes left in the first quarter. Christopher recovered it and took it back 3 yards for the game’s first touchdown. The point-after attempt was blocked to keep it a 6-0.
Manteca kept the lead until the final minutes.
The Buffaloes were set up at their own 1-yard line after Jonathan Martin (1998) intercepted a pass. On the second play of the drive Gerritt Matthews (1990) forced a Manteca running back to fumble in the end zone, and Kyle Westmoreland (1997) came up with the loose ball and the touchdown with 4:26 remaining.
That was Green’s chance to make it up to his teammates.
“At first they wanted to go for two, but I asked the guys to let me go for one,” Green said. “Everybody agreed and I was able to get my redemption.”
Manteca High graduate Tom Aartman also wanted redemption, but in a completely different way. Getting to play a few downs as an offensive lineman was plenty enough to satisfy him.
“I look at it like it’s 28 years of regret erased,” he said. “I didn’t try hard enough to play in high school, and I quit because I didn’t listen to the coaches and their suggestions. I just felt like I was better than I really was.
“I regretted that all these years, so when I found out about this I saw it as one last chance to suit up and eliminate all those years of regret.
“I was happy to play at least some, that’s what it was all about for me. I wish we would have won, but we’re all healthy and nobody got hurt. We came out and everybody had a great time. I’m just happy to be here.”
Aartman was one of five players in the game listed as graduates from the 80s. He was joined by fellow Manteca High Class of 1987 representatives Kenny Wade and Joe Young, and Brian Johnson graduated in 1986. Eric Hooper is a 1985 alumnus of East Union.
Friday’s game was extra special for many of the Lancers of old.
East Union didn’t have its stadium until the late 1990s, so Friday marked the first — and perhaps last for some — time they got to play an organized football game at Dino Cunial Field.
“This field was here but the whole thing didn’t look anything like what we used to practice on,” said 1994 graduate Josh Hebert. “We played at Manteca High for home games.
“It was definitely an honor and a privilege to be able to come out here and play a game on this field for the first time, and to get the win makes it even sweeter.”
While offenses sputtered, there were a lot of big plays made on the defensive end.
For Manteca, Joey Sandoval and Omar Knapper each had an interception, while Michael Carr and Cody Dias recovered fumbles.
Joseph Mendes (1997) tallied two picks for East Union, and Paul Cole II added one. Willie Herrera, who coaches East Union’s varsity football squad, had a fumble recovery.