MANTECA -- Quickly, Guss Schmiedt Field is becoming a breeding ground for milestone performances
by visiting players.
Anthony Cota, step on up.
For the second time this season, Manteca's defense was gashed by one of the Stanislaus District's top running backs. Cota picked up where Los Banos' James Sams (40 carries, 354 yards) left off four weeks ago, rushing for a season-high 222 yards and all five Sierra touchdowns in a 35-26 win Friday night.
He scored on runs of 80, 27, 52 and 1 yard in the first half, and then sealed the victory with a 7-yard sprint in the fourth quarter.
"What a tremendous night running the ball," Sierra coach Jeff Harbison said. "One player couldn't bring him down. We told him this was his house, and he made it his house."
Technically, coach, Guss Schmiedt Field once belonged to Cota.
The senior began his high school career at Manteca High, tantalizing head coach Eric Reis and his staff with 29 touchdowns at the freshman level.
Cota eventually transferred to Sierra (2-1 Valley Oak League, 5-1) the summer before his sophomore year, setting the course for a remarkable career in blue and silver.
If Cota had extra incentive to burn his old teammates, he wasn't letting on. Cota played in this rivalry game as a sophomore, but missed last year's rendition with a broken arm.
"Everybody came out with the same intensity as me," said Cota, who topped the 200-yard mark for the first time this season. "We came out out to play. We came out real crisp."
His legs told another story. Cota was clearly the best player on the field. He played with power and purpose, bludgeoning Manteca's interior defense. And he played with speed, stepping out of tackles and running away from defensive backs near the boundaries.
Of his 22 carries, only one was for a loss.
"Too much Anthony Cota," Reis said.
A gutsy call, meanwhile, left Manteca (3-3, 2-1) feeling sick to its stomach as it huddled in the north end zone.
Trailing 28-26 early in the fourth quarter, and with momentum blowing in its sails, Reis faced a difficult decision: On fourth-and-2 from the Sierra 2, should he kick the chip-shot field goal or go for it?
After a short deliberation, he sent the offense back onto the field.
Toss right, was his call. But the pitch to Eddie Smith (23 carries, 128 yards, one touchdown) flew through his hands.
The play, the drive and any hope of a Buffalo victory died at the 13-yard line with the ball.
"He could have walked right in," Reis said, "but we fumbled the pitch.
"We pride ourselves on getting a yard," he added. "We have no one to blame. If you can't get a yard, you don't deserve to win."
Sierra wrapped up a Manteca city championship on its ensuing possession, marching 87 yards on 13 plays. Jake Pruitt (9 of 18, 126 yards) kept the drive alive with third-down completions to Dakota Conners, and Cota completed the scoring with a 7-yard burst out of the Wildcat formation with 2:07 left.
The Buffaloes got rushing TDs from three different players: Smith, Sal Pena and Ryan Fox. Sophomore wideout Andrew Gardner also scored on a 12-yard flip from Joe Menzel.