The fourth time was the charm for Marcus Montano.
His goal in the 73rd minute lifted Manteca High past visiting Weston Ranch 2-1 on what was an otherwise frustrating Tuesday night for the junior standout.
Montano had opportunities in the 10th and 11th minutes thwarted by Weston Ranch goalie Jose Avila. His attempt four minutes into the second half, set up wonderfully by Ramon Rodriguez, was blasted over the crossbar.
The two would hook up again for the deciding moment of the match. Rodriguez lofted a pass from near midfield into Weston Ranch’s back line. Montano never broke stride as he controlled the ball with a single touch before chipping it high above the charging Avila and into the net.
“It was one of those chances that you just have to capitalize on,” Montano said. “I had a couple of them earlier in the game that didn’t go my way, but I knew that if I kept on working something was going to happen.
“When that ball came to me it seemed like it was in the air for a while. When it finally came down I knew that was the moment of truth.”
The highlight goal of the game came off the foot of Jason Maravilla, who broke the ice in the 48th minute. It was a quick-striking counterattack starting with Kevin Rodriguez’s long ball. Maravilla finished it with a skillful turn-and-shoot maneuver, keeping the ball in the air on the first touch and pounding it with a powerful right-footed strike.
Weston Ranch freshman Francisco Garcia answered with a penalty in the 53rd minute after he was taken down by Manteca defender Javier Rodriguez in the penalty box.
It is the second time Manteca (4-1 Valley Oak League, 12-1-1 overall) grinded out a win over the young but supremely talented Cougars — a feat that any other club in the VOL would be hard-pressed to achieve. They previously met on Sept. 7 in the Buffalo Cup final won by tourney-host Manteca, 2-1.
The rematch played out similarly to the non-league tilt, as Weston Ranch (2-2-1, 10-4-1) outplayed the Buffaloes in the first half. On Tuesday, it was the Cougars who dictated the action. Despite Montano getting his opportunities, Manteca’s overall were few and far between in the opening half. Weston Ranch fired 11 shots against just three for the Buffaloes.
“I thought that was the story of our night,” Weston Ranch coach Francisco Cisneros said. “We had the chances, and against the good teams you have to take advantage of those chances. We didn’t take advantage of ours and they did on theirs.”
Manteca was the aggressor from start to finish in the second stanza and had an 8-4 advantage in shot attempts. Still, Weston Ranch had its looks. Credit goes to Buffalo keeper Abdiel Chaquito (8 saves) and the defense, who haven’t given up more than two goals in a game all season.
“I can’t say enough about Abdiel. He does it time after time,” Manteca coach Justin Coenenberg said. “Defensively we’re getting better. At the start of the year they were all midfielders who had to play defense for us, but they are learning how to play back there.”