Manteca hosts Saint Francis of Mountain View in the CIF State Division II-A regional bowl on Saturday at Guss Schmiedt Field.
Kickoff is 6 p.m.
The Buffaloes (12-2) have won eight consecutive games, including a 34-17 victory over Valley Oak League rival Oakdale in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championship. The blue banner was the program's sixth and fifth under head coach Eric Reis.
Who is Saint Francis (9-4)?
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Here's a closer look at the Buffaloes' opponent:
Six degrees of separation: This will be the first meeting between Manteca, a public school with 1,438 students, and Saint Francis of Mountain View, a private school of 1,768 students.
But if you look closely, there is a connection.
The Lancers have been beaten four times this season: twice by Serra of San Mateo; once by De La Salle, Northern California's representative in the CIF State Open Division championship; and Valley Christian of San Jose.
Yes, that Valley Christian.
Smarting from its season-ending loss to Menlo-Atherton in the CIF State Division III-AA regional bowl a year earlier, Reis purposely scheduled Valley Christian as a measuring stick for a team that returned much of its nucleus. The Buffaloes didn't disappoint, upsetting the regionally-ranked Warriors 22-20. Valley Christian pushed a game-winning field goal attempt wide in the final seconds.
Manteca also played another team on Saint Francis' schedule -- Wilcox of Santa Clara. The Lancers routed Wilcox in the first round of the Central Coast Section Open Division II playoffs, 52-27.
The Buffaloes completed a two-year, home-and-home contract with Wilcox in 2014 with a 20-14 road win. The year before, Wilcox stuffed a two-point conversion attempt in overtime to escape Guss Schmiedt Field with a 28-27 victory.
"When we started with Wilcox, in our minds, we thought we have to get out of our comfort zone and stretch ourselves a little bit," Reis said. "And then with Valley Christian, it stems from last year. Menlo-Atherton was on another level of athleticism ... athleticism we hadn't seen before. With so many guys returning, we knew if we were going to win one of these big games, you have to schedule up."
Running back on the cusp of record: Saint Francis sophomore Darrell Page is closing in on the school's single-season rushing record, according to a report in the San Jose Mercury News. The school record wasn't disclosed, but Page put himself on the cusp with a gutsy 220-yard effort against Serra in the Central Coast Section section championship.
"He is a stud," Serra coach Patrick Walsh told The Mercury News. "That kid is just a ball of heart running down the field."
Page carried the ball 25 times, fueling the Lancers' comeback bid. Saint Francis trailed by 14 points in the fourth quarter, but closed to within one, 31-30. A failed two-point conversion was the difference.
Page scored two touchdowns: a 71-yard burst on Saint Francis' second possession of the game and a 9-yard run early in the fourth quarter.
"He's certainly special," Saint Francis coach Greg Calagno said. "We really like what he can do and we'll give it to him a lot."
The 5-foot-10, 185-pound Page is starting to garner attention on the recruiting trail. He told Scout.com that Cal, San Jose State and Fresno State have expressed interest. He has 1,753 yards and 19 touchdowns on the season.
"He's got such a unique mix," Reis said. "You can tell he has a big lower body, but he has that breakaway speed also. They're so big up front. They're eerily similar to Central Catholic. They'll throw some, but they want to physically grind up front. They have a Stanford set -- seven, eight linemen on the field at once. They're no mystery in what they want to do."
Speaking of recruits: Saint Francis defensive tackle Tyler Manoa is one of the state's top recruits in the Class of 2018, according to 247sports.com. The 6-foot-5, 295-pound senior is No. 10 overall in his class with four stars, and he's the second-highest lineman on the board.
Manoa is uncommitted, according to 247sports.com, but has 13 offers, including: UCLA, Arizona, Cal, Utah, Brigham Young, Arizona State, Colorado, Colorado State, Hawaii, Minnesota, Oregon State, San Jose State and Utah State. He was selected to play in the Army All-American Game.
"He moves so well. He's got the combination of size and speed," Reis said. "They don't have a lot of linemen going both ways, but he's one that does. They'll use him to pull and block down. They've got a really good player and they know how to use him, that's for sure."
Manteca's highest ranked senior is lineman Justin Kakala, a three-star recruit who has orally committed to Harvard. Kakala is No. 101 in the Class of 2018, followed closely by No. 104 Junior Fehoko, a tight end from St. Francis.
Two-way Williams: While the offense has settled around Page, he isn't the only playmaker in the Lancers' huddle. Junior Evan Williams leads the team with 19 catches, 390 receiving yards and seven touchdowns, including two in a Holy War rivalry win over Bellarmine Prep.
The 5-foot-10, 180-pound wide receiver and safety is averaging 20.5 yards per catch. He also has a team-high four interceptions.
Williams' older brother is Bennett Williams, a freshman safety at Illinois and Saint Francis alumnus.
"We wish the Williams had a lot more boys, but unfortunately Evan is the last one," Calcagno told The Mercury News following the Holy War victory. "He's a pretty darn good football player, just like his brother."
Williams' role expanded with the ejection of junior Maurice Wilmer, another wide receiver/defensive back who will be suspended for Saturday's game.
What is this stuff -- grass? Saint Francis will play its first game on natural grass, a factoid that Reis hopes plays to the Buffaloes' advantage. Manteca is 5-1 at home, its only loss to Central Catholic.
"That's always different," Reis said. "It's different making cuts, different playing on a natural surface. We take care of it, but we've also played a lot of games on it."