The old prizefighting axiom says that styles makes fights.
If that holds true on Saturday at Lincoln High in Stockton, then the CIF Division 2 Northern California bowl game between Enterprise (12-0) of Redding and Manteca (13-1) figures to one heck of a brawl.
“Enterprise is definitely a different type of team from what we’ve seen the past couple of weeks,” said Manteca coach Eric Reis, whose Buffaloes faced speed-oriented teams in Inderkum and Sacramento. “They look a lot like us. They’re very physical, they’re well disciplined and they block well.”
Like Manteca, which features running back Alex Laurel (1,799 yards, 47 total TDs), the Hornets are led by 6-foot-1, 205-pound grinder Izzy Matthews, who has rushed for 1,767 yards and 25 TDs.
Matthews figures to do most of his running behind right tackle Brandon Evers, a 6-6, 290-pounder who has committed to play collegiately at Washington State. Evers also plays defensive end.
Unlike the Buffaloes, who operate mainly out of the Power-I formation, Enterprise likes to mix up its formations.
“What I’ve learned is that they used to be an I-formation team,” said Reis. “Then they went to the Fly and then to the Spread. But they’ve kept components of all of them and that gives them a variety of sets.”
The Buffaloes and Hornets have one common opponent this season – Oakdale High.
Enterprise, in its season opener, traveled nearly four hours to take on the Mustangs, the reigning Division 2 NorCal champs. The Hornets squeaked out a 23-22 victory.
Four weeks later, Manteca traveled to The Corral for the teams’ annual Valley Oak League clash and came away with a convincing 35-20 win.
“I would travel a long way to watch this game,” said Oakdale coach Trent Merzon. “I’m glad I don’t have to.
“These teams look a lot like each other. I’ll be shocked if either team pulls away in this game.”
The Enterprise-Oakdale game film will be advantageous, to a degree, for Manteca. While the Buffs can see how Enterprise’s players stack up against the familiar Mustangs, and how Oakdale slowed the Hornets, there is a catch.
“Oakdale’s a Wing-T team so plays that worked for them against Enterprise might not necessarily work for us,” said Reis.
Also, it was the Hornets season opener, and shortcomings in Week 1 have probably been smoothed out by now.
Last season, Enterprise finished 9-3 and avenged a one-point, regular-season loss to Paradise with a one-point victory in the Northern Section title game. Nevertheless, the Hornets were on the outside looking in last year when the NorCal bowl bids were announced. Oakdale and Clayton Valley were the picks, and the Mustangs advanced with a 27-24 victory.
“I like what they did this year,” Merzon said. “They were No. 3 last season, so they went out and scheduled the defending Northern California champions … at our place. I think they belong in this game.”