ATWATER — A blocked punt and an interception led to two second-quarter touchdowns within a minute of each other for Manteca on Saturday and a bizarre interception return for a touchdown five minutes later sparked the Buffaloes to a 30-point halftime lead on the way to 37-13 non-league win over Buhach Colony of Atwater at Dave Honey Stadium.
The quick scoring blitz started following Justin Kakala’s blocked punt late in the opening period.
“I just tried to do what my coaches tell me,” Kakala said. “I hit him with a swim move, got around the next defender and got my hands up.”
Three plays later Seth Owings ran in a touchdown from 15 yards out to put Manteca (1-0) ahead 22-0 with 10:33 left in the second quarter. Twelve seconds after that, Kameron Beamon made the first Buffaloes interception of the quarter, setting up another three-play scoring drive capped by James Thomas’ 16-yard touchdown run and a 30-0 lead.
“We got a couple of picks and that seemed like it took them out of their game pretty early on,” Manteca coach Eric Reis said. “They couldn’t find an offensive rhythm, so that helped.”
Following a 66-yard scoring run by Alejandro Andrade (seven carries, 85 yards) to bring the Thunder (0-1) within 30-7, Buhach’s next drive stalled, leading to a field-goal attempt. A bad snap forced a pass attempt to try for a first down, but Thomas intercepted the try.
After the interception, all the players stopped as if the play was an extra-point attempt. Confusion ensued, and then Thomas broke away for a 97-yard sprint and a touchdown.
“I really thought it was a PAT,” Thomas said. “I just saw everyone started to run toward me and I heard my coaches telling me to run so I just ran, as fast as I could.
“I knew I had it when I got down to the 30-yard line.”
Gino Campiotti (five of eight passing, 77 yards, touchdown) directed the balanced Manteca offense and threw a 16-yard first-quarter touchdown pass to Jose Garcia. Campiotti engineered a 12-play, 66-yard drive to start the game capped by Ferrin Manuleleua’s 3-yard touchdown run for an 8-0 lead.
“I have high hopes for this season,” Campiotti said. “We saw a lot of good things. We came out and did what we were supposed to.”
Eleven different Buffaloes took turn running the ball and were led by Kameron Beamon with 10 carries for 64 yards.
Manuleleua led the stingy Manteca defense with 11 tackles. Michael Sarmento added 10 stops, with Thomas, James Thomas, Devyn Gonzales and Michael Ender netting seven stops apiece.
Overall, Reis was pleased with his team’s performance.
“This was a typical Week Zero game,” Reis said. “I thought we showed flashes of what we can be, but we are looking for consistency.
“I am kind of happy for us. We had a long bus ride for Sonora last week, and now a long bus trip to Atwater. We have done some traveling and it has been good for the team to face some hostile environments.”