Manteca football team to open 49ers’ new stadium

jcortez@modbee.comMay 8, 2014 

Eric Reis and his Manteca High football team have a chance to do something unique, something meaningful, something historic: They can win the first regular-season football game ever played at the 49ers‘ new Levi Stadium.

Sure, the 49ers will have played two preseason exhibitions at their new digs by the time Manteca takes the field Aug. 29 against Wilcox High (Santa Clara).

But the first football game that really means something? That’ll be between the Buffaloes and Chargers.

“We’re still waiting to sign the papers and all that stuff,” said Reis. “But for at least six to eight weeks we’ve known about it.”

The game is expected to be part of a high school doubleheader. The nightcap consists of national powerhouse De La Salle (Concord) taking on Sac-Joaquin Section powerhouse Jesuit (Carmichael). That kind of star power, plus the novelty of the new stadium, could possibly attract 20,000 fans.

“My assistant coach, Jerry Walser, is the one who really made this happen,” said Reis. “He went to school with Coach (Dan) Brown of Wilcox, and they got to talking.”

The Chargers won last year’s matchup between the schools 28-27 – Manteca scored late and went for the win with a two-point conversion attempt – and that was the Buffs’ only loss until losing to Enterprise (Redding) 27-21 in the Division 2 Northern California championship game.

To play this year’s game at Levi Stadium – only the Aug. 29 date would work – Manteca had to ditch Week Zero opponent Central Valley (Ceres). The Buffs and Hawks met last year in Week Zero, with Manteca winning 47-20. The teams would meet again in the opening round of the section’s Division 3 playoffs and delivered a game for the ages, with Manteca outlasting CV 69-55 at Gus Schmiedt Field.

To break the contract with Central Valley, the Buffaloes not only had to find the Hawks a new opponent, they had to find a new Week 1 foe for themselves. They found one in Valley Christian of Dublin.

Last year would’ve been the perfect time for Manteca to play on such a big stage. The 2013 squad will go down as the greatest in school history, posting a 13-2 record with a section title, earning a trip to the NorCal bowl game, and featuring an all-senior offensive line that averaged better than 270 pounds and a running back (Alex Laurel) who rushed for 1,876 yards and scored 49 touchdowns.

“We lost a lot of dudes, but we’re pretty optimistic still,” said Reis. “Our junior varsity team went 10-0, so we’ve got some talented kids coming in.

“There’s not much time to prepare, especially on that kind of stage. We have to represent our school, our league and our section. We have to be ready to roll.”

End of an era at Le Grand – After 12 years as the head coach, four consecutive Sac-Joaquin Section championships, five straight trips to the final, and one state bowl berth, Rick Martinez officially resigned as the Le Grand head football coach on Thursday. Martinez has accepted a teaching job at Golden Valley and will become an assistant coach for Cougars head coach Dennis Stubbs.

Moving to the Merced Union High School District will be a bump in salary for Martinez. Becoming an assistant coach will also give him time to go back to school to work on an administrative credential.

“The move is best for my family,” Martinez said. “The toughest part is leaving the kids. For some of these kids this is all they’ll have. When they go off and do things they’re still going to remember football and what we accomplished.”

Le Grand compiled an 81-37 record under Martinez, including a 45-5 record the last five seasons. The Bulldogs have won five straight Southern League championships. Martinez led Le Grand to six section title game appearances overall, winning the last four.

Winton heading home – Merced High athletic director Scott Winton has been hired for the same position at Livingston High to replace the retiring Angelo Naldi. Winton graduated from Livingston in 1991. Winton has taught 17 years at Merced, coaching baseball, football and golf during his tenure.

“First and foremost, I’m making the move to be closer to my family,” Winton said. “Needless to say, I’m looking forward to my new commute, which consists of about a five-minute walk. It’s special to be able to go back to not only my alma mater, but the alma mater of my brother, both parents and both sets of grandparents.”

Girls soccer – Central Catholic, the No. 1 seed in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 5 playoffs, opened its quest for a title with a 3-0 victory over Ripon. Sophomore Taylor Osnaya scored twice in the victory, while junior Chloe Peepgrass delivered the other goal. The Raiders will host the winner of the Bradshaw Christian-Venture Academy game on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m.

On the other end of the bracket, second-seeded Escalon beat Mesa Verde 5-1. Anna Lena Simson scored twice for the Cougars, while Yarisa Cruz, Leslie Garcia and Jaylyne Serpe scored one each. Escalon will host West Campus (Sacramento), a 6-2 winner over Calaveras, on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m.

Boys tennis – Ceres High singles player Nolan McCaig defeated American Canyon’s Aabjeet Grewal 6-1, then beat Manteca’s Yok-Jung Ma 6-2, 6-2 to reach the semifinal round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 2 singles tournament. The Bulldogs’ doubles team of Julio Ochoa and Chase Harden also reached the semis, beating Kyle Bates and Alec Haas 6-1, 6-1 of Pioneer (Woodland) and Yuba City’s Jared Seamons and Jordan Kuphaldt 6-1, 6-1.

Central Catholic’s tandem of Chris Huber and Conor Fenton reached the D2 quarterfinals by beating the Kennedy High (Sacramento) duo, but bowed out after losing 6-4, 6-7, 6-3 to Kadyn Silva and Jack Longergan of Rio Americano (Sacramento).

In Division 1 singles, Downey High’s Nick Mendez defeated Derek Wadsworth of Armijo 6-4, 6-3 before falling in the quarters 6-3, 7-5 to Zack Lowe of Granite Bay. Enochs’ Jordan Hayashi, Merced’s Rex Cabrel and Golden Valley’s Cesar Nava were ousted in the first round.

In D2 doubles, only Beyer’s tandem of Gabe Quindara and Bryan Crabtree advanced. The duo beat Dung Lam and Harshdeep Brar of McNair (Stockton), then lost to Brendan Fretz and Brett Moore of Jesuit (Carmichael). Turlock’s Alex Lima and Heath Rojas, Golden Valley’s Thomas Becker and Adrian Garcia, and Modesto’s Christian McCaig and Riley Noland were eliminated in their openers.

Shawn Jansen of the Merced Sun-Star contributed to this report.

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