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Dust settles from epic VOL opener
Manteca-Central serves as indication of whats to come
FB--Notebook file pic 9-27-14 LT
Hector Soto finds running room in the Central Catholic defense during Mantecas wild 29-28 defeat in Modesto last Friday. - photo by HIME ROMERO

It’s being billed as an “epic” football game, an “instant classic” between two perennial powers.

And based on the see-saw of emotions that swept the field in the wake of Manteca High’s 29-28 overtime loss to Central Catholic, the game  was worthy of such lofty hyperbole.

Picture this: Central Catholic (1-0, 3-1) had never trailed until the first possession of overtime, when Manteca’s Darrion Kitson – a backup pressed into duty – plowed into the end zone on fourth down to make it 28-21.

The Raiders’ rebuttal? A punishing 10-yard run by Justin Rice in which the receiver-turned-running back carried a Buffalo player the last seven yards. The play worked so well, CC coach Roger Canepa called it again for the game-winning two-point conversion.

Tight Right Blast … for the win. The Raiders stormed the field, celebrating wildly. The Buffaloes (0-1, 3-1), meanwhile, retreated slowly to the locker room, heart-broken and fighting back tears of frustration. 

“I cannot tell you, as a coach, how proud I am of you,” Manteca’s Eric Reis said during those tender moments after the game. “You guys never gave up and showed us exactly who you are. Do not second guess the effort you showed this week, the preparation and what you did tonight.” 

This Valley Oak League opener between 2013 Northern California bowl participants came disguised as a championship game, and therein lies the treat for VOL fans: Every Friday night should produce a thriller like this. 

Central Catholic’s reward for surviving Manteca is a trip to undefeated Sierra (1-0, 4-0), a team some believe may unseat Manteca on the podium.

Can Central Catholic heal in time for another meat-grinder? Attrition, that’s the challenge for any Valley Oak League newcomer. 

“We’re going to enjoy this. I don’t even know what Sierra does,” Canepa said. “I just do one team at a time. We’ll go there and battle and hopefully have the energy. We had a couple of starters out, so hopefully they come back.” 

But before we turn the page, though, let’s clear out the notebook. Here are a few items from Friday’s “epic,” “instant classic” in Modesto that didn’t make Saturday’s paper:

• • •

Not Dunn yet

Manteca High junior Javaun Dunn should be praised for his blocked field goal in the final seconds of regulation.

Without his jump and reach, the Buffaloes don’t get a chance to win the game in overtime.

The 6-foot-2 Dunn timed it right, but so did his position coach. Special teams coach Joey Rohles made the last-second switch (literally) that sent the backup lineman racing into the game moments before the 26-yard field goal try by Central Catholic’s Bryce Wade.

Afterwards, during the frenzy before overtime, Dunn told Manteca freshman assistant coach Ronald Hodges, “It wasn’t my only play of the game, but it was my biggest.”

• • •

Kicking the pain

Manteca High kicker Marcus Montano converted all four of his extra-point attempts despite playing in pain.

The senior was spotted on the sideline getting treatment on his lower back in between kicks. Montano still managed to reach the end zone with most of his kickoffs. 

The one that didn’t, though, was nearly costly.

After Lechi Nkwocha’s 1-yard touchdown run made it 21-all, Montano’s boot died at the 1-yard line, allowing Rice to return it.

Rice zipped through the heart of the Buffalo coverage and was suddenly all alone with Montano, the last line of defense. Montano stumbled backwards, but did well to slow down Rice just enough to allow the back-tracking Buffs to catch up.

The 60-yard return eventually set up Wade’s ill-fated field goal try.

• • •

A+ effort by the ‘D’

Manteca gift-wrapped Central Catholic’s 14-0 head start with a pair of first-quarter blunders.

First, there was an 8-yard punt that set the Raiders up at the Manteca 34-yard line. Three plays later, Rice scored the first of four touchdowns.

The second mistake was a fumble near midfield.

Good teams will find the end zone when given a short field, and though the loss was heavy and it hurt, defensive coordinator Rick James praised his unit for shutting down the two-time small-school state champions for the better part of three quarters.

That prolonged defensive stand allowed Manteca’s slow-to-start offense time to rally and tie the game.

There were plenty of noteworthy moments, too: an interception by Mike Padilla; a crushing tackle by Darrell Clemons, who returned from injury; shutting down heralded junior quarterback Hunter Petlansky, who completed just 6 of his 16 passes; and registering a goal-line stand at their own 1 late in the fourth quarter.

“We have a pretty neat team. To think that we’ve lost just about every guy and we’ve reloaded to have this kind of team the next year, I’m very, very proud of these kids. You’re not going to battle them (CC) with nothing in the cupboard.”

• • •

Friday Night Lights

ticket exchange

The last day to exchange tickets for the Oct. 11 showdown between Manteca and Oakdale at Levi’s Stadium is Friday. Those that purchased tickets for the original Friday Night Lights football games – a showcase that was rescheduled and reformatted because of sod issues at the new billion-dollar stadium – can exchange their tickets on campus.


To contact Managing Editor James Burns email or call 209.249.3542.