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Marin brothers score one each in playoff loss
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Mantecas Cesar Reyes brings down the ball as teammate Oral Nunis provides backup. - photo by HIME ROMERO

The Marin brothers played their final soccer game together for Manteca High Thursday in the Buffaloes’ Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV out-bracket playoff match with visiting Livingston.

Ricardo Marin assisted his brother Giovanni’s goal and scored one of his own, but Manteca came up short, 3-2.

Freshman phenom Cesar Balderas netted two goals for Livingston (18-6-3), which staved off a torrid second-half charge from Manteca. The No. 3 seeded Wolves out of the Western Athletic Conference will next face defending champion Vista del Lago in Folsom next Tuesday.

Ricardo, a junior midfielder, will miss playing with his elder brother and six other seniors. Giovanni is the Buffaloes’ scoring leader with 17 goals and 10 assists.

“The seniors, they did very well this season,” Ricardo said. “We just have to think about next year and prepare to do better than we did this year.”

The Marin combination connected for the game’s first goal in the eighth minute, with Ricardo delivering a throw-in into Livingston’s penalty box. Giovanni beat three defenders to free himself up for an open look in the goal area and converted Manteca’s first shot attempt of the match.

The Wolves answered with two goals from Balderas in the 15th and 25th minutes and carried the lead into the break. Those were key scores for Livingston, which looked to take advantage of a strong tailwind in the opening half.

The gust was a big factor in the contest. In the first half, Livingston held a 14-3 shot advantage, and over the final 40-minute stanza Manteca fired 12 attempts to the Wolves’ six.

“The second half we knew it was going to be harder, so we knew we had to come out strong in the first half to get the momentum and the confidence up,” said Livingston coach Alex Gonzalez.

Livingston increased its lead early in the second half. Jose Torres finished off a free-kick sequence in which an initial head shot was deflected away by Manteca goalkeeper Brandon Dias (five saves). Torres nailed it from point-blank in traffic.

Manteca took control from there.

Ricardo Marin closed the gap in the 57th minute with a little luck on his side. From about the 40-yard mark, he lofted the ball high into the box for Giovanni and was off the mark. Livingston keeper Brigido Bautista (five saves) misjudged the flight of the ball, and it skipped over him and into the goal.

“I got big help from the wind,” Ricardo admitted.

The Buffaloes couldn’t buy another break the rest of the way.

Three minutes later, defender Oral Nunis launched a shot from distance and nearly slipped it beneath the crossbar, but Bautista timed his jump perfectly as he slapped the ball away.

Later, Sergio Lopez was thwarted by Bautista on a shot from the 18-yard line following a corner kick, and on the rebound Marcus Montano sent it a few feet high of the crossbar.

Giovanni Marin, who had several good opportunities all game, nearly forced overtime with flair in the final seconds. Nunis crossed the ball from the left side, and Marin connected for a bicycle kick but blew it wide of the right post.

“We definitely had opportunities,” Manteca coach Justin Coenenberg said. “I’m sure there are a couple that Gio and some other guys would like to get back.”

Coenenberg hopes the loss fuels his young team for future postseason runs. This was the Buffaloes’ first playoff appearance since 2007 when they were champions of the Valley Oak League.

Manteca had a chance to earn a piece of the conference title in the regular-season finale last week but lost 1-0 at rival East Union, dropping it from a potential VOL No. 1 seed to No. 3.

“I just told them to remember how this moment feels right now and use it to motivate and drive us for next season,” Coenenberg said.