Rivalries don’t graduate.
“The hate is still there,” said 2003 Manteca High graduate Steve Dunigan, referring to his old feelings for in-town foe Sierra.
That hate is a lot less intense these days for those of Dunigan’s generation, though that didn’t appear to be the case when former Manteca and Sierra players locked up for an alumni game at East Union’s Dino Cunial Field Friday.
Dunigan, a standout two-way lineman during his time at Manteca, helped the Buffaloes win, 20-0.
After over a month’s worth of non-contact practices, players were antsy to get started Friday. In the opening minutes there was a fair share of trash talking, some pushing and shoving and unsportsmanlike-conduct penalties.
All in good fun, says Dunigan, who was named the Most Valuable Player of the Valley Oak League in 2001 when the Buffaloes claimed the first of three Sac-Joaquin Section championships last decade. He went on to play for UC Davis, Delta College and Texas A&M — Kingsville, where he graduated in 2009.
“We’re all adults now,” he said. “We’re out of high school, so it’s a different game. Yeah we’re still out there banging heads, but we’re just having a good time.”
After the game, players shared handshakes, laughs and hugs near midfield.
“It was fun just to put the pads back on and see some old friends,” said Ryan Teicheira, Class of 2001 at Sierra. “We’re friends with all those guys, too, so it was neat to do it all again. I’ll feel the pain later for sure, but it was a good time.”
Alumni Football USA (www.alumnifootballusa.com) put on the event, which also featured a Manteca-East Union contest involving graduates from 2001 and earlier under the lights. It was the first time Manteca and East Union alumni got together for a game in 17 years.
Most players from the earlier Manteca-Sierra game graduated between 2002-2010.
Alumni Football USA supplied over $200,000 worth of equipment and provided officials. Several representatives, including Northern California Event Coordinator Darren Taylor and Southern California Event Coordinator Jarrod Hargave, were on site to make sure things ran smoothly.
Ricky Martinez, another one of Manteca High’s stars on the 2001 VOL and section championship team, ran smoothly on the field.
A cornerback for Minot State, a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics school, Martinez intercepted two passes, including one for a touchdown on a 37-yard return early in the fourth quarter. He also scored on offense, a 5-yard scamper up the middle with 3:40 left in the third to make it 12-0.
Akeem Wade (2005) rushed in the Buffaloes’ first score from 12 yards out with 1:56 remaining in the opening quarter.
“I played cornerback all throughout college and I only got one touchdown,” Martinez said. “So to get two today felt real good.”
Matt Greenlee (2002) and Seth Davis (2006) each added an interception, and Scott Lambert recovered a fumble. Greenlee was recognized before kickoff for his time served in the U.S. military.
Sierra had trouble sustaining drives all game, a result of low turnout at practices, said Teicheira. But the defense certainly did its part, with Allen Flowers (fumble recovery), Jason Lewis (interception), Felix Duag (interception) and Nick Wisely (fumble recovery) created turnovers for the Timberwolves.
“It was hectic just getting guys together for practice, and you can tell by just watching us play offense,” Teicheira said. “But you know what? I want to do it again next year and suit back up.
“I was telling one of the guys I wish this was a season. I’d love to do it next week because this is fun, but I know our bodies would pay for it.”