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Mantecas run game, defense too much for Sierra
Sierra High defensive back Tim Brown chases down Manteca fullback Joe Trout. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Two of the area’s top offensive players did not play in Friday’s Manteca-Sierra rivalry grudge match at Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium.

It didn’t matter.

With starting quarterback Alex Martinez out with a broken thumb on his throwing hand, Manteca relied on its ground game and hard-hitting defense to produce an emphatic 28-7 victory.

The Buffaloes improved to 3-0 in the Valley Oak League and 6-0 overall while extending their all-time lead over Sierra, 12-5.

The 17th installment of this crosstown series wasn’t close after the last four meetings were each decided by no more than eight points, and it was thanks to the dominant play of Manteca’s linemen.  The Buffaloes grinded out 295 rushing yards to Sierra’s meager 35, and their usually-balanced attack ran the ball 55 times and threw it seven.

Sierra could have used the physical running style of Anthony Cota, who missed a second straight game with a broken forearm. But even a healthy Cota would have had little room to roam.

“Injuries are part of the game,” Sierra coach Jeff Harbison said. “We have to go on and keep playing without Anthony.

“Manteca’s line, offensively and defensively, just took it to us tonight.”

Sierra (1-2, 2-4), which trailed 21-0 at halftime, did a better job of slowing down the Buffaloes’ run game in the third quarter.

But Manteca was persistent in wearing down Sierra’s defense, throwing just twice in the second half and completing one to standout receiver Eric Ceja for a 12-yard gain on third-and-10 early in the fourth quarter. That led to a 4-yard touchdown run from Jamontee Jones (nine rushes, 42 yards), capping a 7-minute, 33-second drive.

Manteca’s first scoring drive spanned 7:25 in the first quarter.

“We have the trust of our coaches,” said Manteca left tackle Elijah Surall. “We work hard in practice and we have faith in our running backs to run the ball well behind us.”

Fullback Joe Trout had 12 carries for 73 yards — both season highs — to lead the Buffaloes. Danny Gouveia scored twice in the first half and finished with 59 yards on 11 attempts, while Cameron Harvey had 10 rushes go for 63 yards.

Though back-up QB Ryan Fox (3-for-7, 47 yards) spent most of the night handing the ball off to seven different rushers, he made the plays when Manteca needed them. All three of his pass completions went for first downs, including a 15-yard touchdown up the middle to tight end Matt Kuhnlenz on fourth-and-10 with no time left in the first half.

“The (touchdown) before the half was huge,” Manteca coach Eric Reis said. “Scoring that one to go up 21-0 was a big, big play, and it changed the momentum big time.”

Reis added that Martinez’s future status is “week-to-week.”

On the other side of scrimmage, Manteca bottled up Sierra’s spread offense and allowed just 143 total yards. Twelve of Sierra’s 15 running plays went for less than 5 yards.

Jayson Manuta (10 rushes, 27 yards) scored Sierra’s lone touchdown with a 14-yard scamper with 4:04 to go in the third quarter.

Sierra QB Anthony Perea was only sacked twice (Zach Menasco, Eddie Smith) but threw three interceptions (Anthony Lopez, Sal Pena, Harvey). Pena’s pick was assisted by a batted ball at the line of scrimmage from Trout on Sierra’s first possession in the second half, and that was the first of two drives that the Timberwolves’ managed to creep into the red zone.

Perea finished 12-of-29 passing with 108 yards and was also limited to 8 rushing yards.

“Part of the (reason) why I scheduled teams like Edison and Stagg (in nonleague) — both spread teams — was to see that kind of speed, and I think it helped us prepare for tonight,” Reis said.