Manteca High will be gunning for its fourth Sac-Joaquin Section football championship in school history tonight when it takes on Sacramento at Lincoln High School in Stockton.
The Buffaloes (12-1) are the No. 2 seed in the Division 3 playoffs, while the Dragons (11-2) are seeded fifth.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
These teams will bring vastly different gameplans into tonight’s contest: Manteca will look to run senior Alex Laurel (1,630 yards, 45 touchdowns) behind an offensive line that averages better than 270 pounds across. Sacramento, meanwhile, will use an aerial attack that has racked up the second highest yardage total in the state.
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Sophomore quarterback Caden Voges has thrown for 4,139 and 47 TDs, his primary target being senior Damen Wheeler, who has caught 79 passes for 1,840 yards and 22 TDs. Voges also relies upon senior Kyree Stephens, who has caught 66 passes for 1,047 yards and 13 TDs.
“They have some very, very dynamic players,” said Manteca head coach Eric Reis, who guided the Buffaloes to two (2005-06) of the school’s three section crowns. “They’re a spread team that likes to throw the deep routes, but they’ll hit those tunnel screens if you play too far off their receivers.”
More than just a passing team, Sacramento can run the ball, too. Lonny Powell is the team’s leading rusher with 814 yards. While that’s not a glamorous total through 13 games, those yards have come on just 67 carries – an average of 12.2 yards per carry. Junior Jimmy Hatch has rushed for more than 500 yards (8.6 per carry) and Voges also will tuck it and run (696 yards on 106 attempts).
Despite all the offensive glitz, Manteca High actually scores more points per game than Sacramento. The Buffs are No. 7 in California with 48.5 points per contest; the Dragons rank 11th in the state with 46.5. Nevertheless, it’s Sacramento’s quick-strike ability that sets its offense apart.
Last week, in 48-38 semifinal victory over Christian Brothers (Sacramento), Voges hit Wheeler for a 99-yard touchdown strike.
“We can’t stop them, we can only slow them down,” said Reis. “So we have to make them earn everything they get.”
The best bet would be to keep the Dragons’ offense off the field altogether. That means long, clock-munching drives by the Buffs’ offense.
“We have to take care of the football,” said Reis. “We’ve seen in watching film that they have a real knack for pulling the ball out and getting turnovers.”