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Cougars unable to hold early lead
Manteca’s Robbie Geerlof gets caught in Cougar traffic in front of the keeper during the Buffaloes 1-1 tie with Weston Ranch. - photo by HIME ROMERO
A first half-goal from David Molina seemingly sparked a Weston Ranch revenge win, but the Buffaloes had other plans. Manteca outshot and outscored the Cougars over the final half salvaging a 1-1 tie in the Valley Oak League playoff showdown at Lincoln Park Thursday.

The Buffaloes were a different squad in the second half, giving Weston Ranch a more confrontational style of play and sticking with it for the final 40 minutes.

“It was a physical game, it usually always is when we play The  Ranch,” Manteca head coach Justin Coenenberg said. “They played us really tough. We didn’t play that bad in the first half, we played decent.

“The second half we pretty much dominated the entire half.”

Manteca (3-7-2 VOL, 4-13-2 overall) clearly was the more dominant second half team, getting off nearly double the shots on goal and making one count when Jose Maravilla navigated from midfield and made good on his shot past a diving goalie inside of the left post.

“We made a little adjustment in the lineup and we pushed one of our center-mid’s up,” Coenenberg said. “To play a little offense, I don’t know if that was the difference, but it seemed to help a little bit.”

Weston Ranch put together an impressive first half, making the necessary passes and finding open players, consistently attacking the Buffaloes defense. There was a level of comfort that came with Molina’s goal, eventually leading to the demise for the Cougars.

“We should have won this game,” Cougar head coach Carlos Gaspar said. “We should have won other games. You can only do so much. When I only have five guys who come out here to play, it’s the team that gets punished.

“I can’t do anything with five players.”

Gaspar knows one player he did have, and Molina did not disappoint. The sophomore playmaker catapulted the Cougars to their first half lead with a brilliant goal. Molina penetrated the Buffalo defense, sliced to the right, then back to the left, firing a left-foot shot that easily found the back of the net.

The goal gave Weston Ranch the lead, yet it also gave the Cougars a false sense of security.

“I didn’t think that goal was going to be enough for us to win,” Molina said. “Really, we needed a 2-0 lead to be comfortable going into the second half. Our team is never confident when we play in the second half.

“We always seem to get lazy and give up.”

It was evident that both teams came out of the intermission with different levels of intensity. One squad did nearly everything right over the final half, whereas the other team was unable to push itself over the hump.

“Manteca seemed to want it more,” Molina said. “We came out and thought the game was over when we only had a 1-0 lead.

“Anything can happen and we saw that.”

Weston Ranch now has to deal with the fact that its playoff hopes took a hit and now will have to close out the season as a spoiler for the remaining elect of the VOL.

“The best I can hope for is for us to close out the season strong,” Gaspar said. “With this tie and the losses that we have, it makes it hard. The leaders are way up there in points.

“I just want us to play hard and try and take out the top teams we have left.”

Manteca 9, Weston Ranch 0
The Weston Ranch Cougars became victim No. 10 when Manteca High crushed the Cougars at Curran Park to remain undefeated in the VOL.

Niko Gonzalez, Isaac Jiminez, Ceaser Reyes and Ricardo Marin all scored goals for the Buffaloes and teammate Valdo Vinos netted two in the win. Oral Nunis had a quality outing, scoring a goal and dishing out assists to teammate Uriel Torres on both of his goals.

Cameron Crippen also found the back of the net for Manteca.

The Buffaloes (10-0 VOL, 14-0 overall) will look to remain unbeaten when they travel to Ceres to take on the Central Valley Hawks Tuesday at 4 p.m.