STOCKTON — Manteca had a chance to clinch a Sac-Joaquin Section playoff berth with a victory over Weston Ranch Thursday, but the Cougars had different plans on Senior Night.
Weston Ranch used a go-ahead goal by freshman Francisco Garcia on the opening possession of the second half and held off the visiting Buffaloes, 2-1.
“That was the plan coming out, we knew we needed that second goal,” Weston Ranch head coach Francisco Cisneros said. “(Manteca) is a great team, and the last two times we’ve played them they’ve beaten us 2-1. We knew we had to get that second goal, and our guys responded.”
Weston Ranch (7-4-1 Valley Oak League, 15-5-2 overall) struck in the opening minute of the second half.
Cougar sophomore Omar Centeno started the break and dished the ball to fellow sophomore Kevin Medina on the right. Medina one-touched a cross to the slashing Garcia, who stuck it past Manteca’s senior goalie Abdiel Chiquito (seven saves) and recorded the eventual game-winning goal.
“I would like to thank my boy Kevin, it was a good pass,” said Garcia, who moved to forward because of two injured Cougar defenders. “We came out strong. We built that up from the back all the way to the top, and the goal came in.”
Manteca (8-3-1, 16-3-2) tied the game right before the half after falling behind 1-0 in minute No. 18. Weston Ranch’s junior midfielder Hector Maldonado was awarded a penalty kick after the Buffaloes were whistled for a handball inside the box. Maldonado chose the right-bottom corner of the net to beat Chiquito.
Weston Ranch outshot the VOL’s second-place team, 11-9. The Cougars, who are currently in third in the playoff race, received six saves from goalie Jose Andrade.
Manteca’s only score came from senior Brandon Landwehr in the 37th minute. Landwehr put back the deflection that was fired by sophomore Kevin Rodriguez (assist) to tie the game going into the half.
“This definitely puts us in a tougher position,” Manteca head coach Justin Coenenberg said. “We still have two quality opponents to play. It would have been nice to come out and get a win tonight and clinch things and make it easier on ourselves. We didn’t do that.
“Weston Ranch is a quality opponent. We played them in the championship of our own tournament, so we beat them the last two times. It’s hard to beat a quality team two times let alone three. They played well.”
Manteca’s Marcus Montano had a shot on goal during the 24th minute and Jason Maravilla fired a shot in the 51st minute. Both of those great looks were blocked by Andrade.
Weston Ranch will visit Oakdale Monday and will close on the road against Sierra Wednesday. The Buffaloes will be at Lathrop and then will close VOL play at home against East Union.
Sierra 2, East Union 0
Bryan Ramos assisted both goals, each scored by Jesus Coronado and Cesar Martinez, in a much-needed win for the Timberwolves (6-3-3, 10-6-4).
They still trail Weston Ranch by a point in the standings while moving to within four of Manteca in a three-way battle for the remaining two Sac-Joaquin Section playoff berths. First-place Oakdale already has its postseason spot secured and a at least a share of the title.
Lathrop 2, Sonora 1
The Spartans (4-5-3, 10-8-3) were mathematically knocked out of the playoff hunt Thursday with Weston Ranch’s win over Manteca, but they are looking finish out the season strong.
Drew Erwin was in on both of Lathrop’s first-half goals, scoring one and assisting Kevin Alvarez’s. Sonora keeper Andrew Klatt converted a penalty kick in the second half to close the Wildcats (2-9-1, 6-12-1) in. Eric DeLeon racked up seven saves in front of the Lathrop goal.
Ripon Christian 2, Delhi 2
The Knights (5-3-1, 10-6-3), looking to avenge a previous loss to Delhi (6-2-3, 8-5-5), were able to salvage a tie on the road thanks to Travis Vander Molen’s scoring header in the 51st minute. Kyle Colyn dished it to him with a midfield blast on a set piece.
Vander Molen also broke the ice in the 10th minute with a free kick.
“We’re making a playoff run,” said RC coach Keith Terpsma. “A win would have been great, but we’ll take the point for the draw and run with that.”
— Jonamar Jacinto contributed to this report.