Five years ago, the Manteca Jr. Buffaloes were the talk of the town, but much of the talk wasn’t good.
Kirk Allen, who serves as athletic director for the youth football organization, hopes all that has changed.
“It started off slow like all other new organizations,” he said. “Last year we had two teams go to the Super Bowl and that kind of put us on the map a little bit. People took notice.”
The junior varsity and novice teams both lost in the 25-team Trans Valley Youth Football League Super Bowl last year. The varsity contingent was one win away from advancing to the finale.
Allen has been a part of the team since its inception in 2007. The Jr. Buffaloes became the fifth youth football program in town but wasn’t necessarily welcomed with open arms.
Board members of pre-existing teams felt they were using the Manteca High School football team’s success as a recruiting tool, giving them an unfair advantage. While the team still sports the high school’s colors and uses its mascot, not all of their players end up at Manteca High.
Allen said that other selling points have driven the program’s steady improvement in turnout. For example, every player is guaranteed to be in on a minimum of 10 plays per game, and each of the four age-specific teams has at least five coaches on staff.
Winning, of course, helps the cause. As did the end of what was the sixth youth football team in Manteca. The Central Valley Wolfpack disbanded after a year. Allen noted that about 15 former Wolfpack players are now with the Jr. Buffaloes.
“We’re trying to run a first-class organization,” Allen said. “You get more organized as you go on and learn from mistakes from early on. We’re building a stronger foundation and continue to go forward as much as possible.
“Most of all we want the kids to learn and have fun, and if they can be champions at the same time all the better.”
Allen’s wife, Gia, is the Jr. Buffaloes’ secretary, and they have two sons on the novice team — one as a player, the other a coach. Mike Broderick is the team’s president.
The Jr. Buffaloes will get their first test in the TVYFL Munchie Games Aug. 13 at Winton Middle School. The jamboree scrimmage will also include the Ripon Chiefs, Winton Cowboys, Keyes Bees, Tri-City Bulldogs and Westside Niners.
The season kicks off for Manteca on Sunday, Aug. 21, against Denair at East Union High.