Carter William's senior season at Manteca High has been a roller coaster of emotion.
Quite literally, the Beyer transfer leaped into the spotlight with his new team.
In a season-opening victory over regionally-ranked Valley Christian of San Jose, Williams hurdled a player on a 51-yard touchdown run that was negated by penalty. Hurdling isn't allowed, but the play marked Williams' arrival on the big stage.
He was going to be a game-changer in an offense that boasted a veteran line, anchored by three-year standouts Kyle Reis and Justin Kakala, and big-armed quarterback Gino Campiotti.
And then he wasn't.
Williams missed parts of five games with a host of leg injuries. There was a high-ankle sprain; a pulled IT band, a ligament that runs down the side of the thigh, from hip to shin; a stretched ACL; and a partly torn hamstring.
"It was horrible sitting out (and) watching my team play," Williams wrote in a message on Twitter. "Not being able to war with them was tough. I felt I let them down for the longest."
Williams tried to return for the Buffaloes' trip to Oakdale, a game it had to win to remain in the VOL title hunt, but was largely ineffective. He had a 1-yard carry and no receptions.
"I tried playing (in the) Oakdale game," he wrote, "but wasn't ready."
He's healthy now, and back to his old ways.
Williams, a former all-Modesto Metro Conference player, highlighted Manteca's 46-17 rivalry win over East Union last week with two touchdown receptions. On one score, Williams leaped for the pylon, absorbed contact and flipped into the end zone.
He has seven touchdowns in five full games for the second-seeded Buffaloes, who open the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs Thursday against No. 15 Rio Americano.
"The relationship since I've been back, I think, is amazing," Williams said of his connection with Campiotti. "We worked on routes this whole summer. You can say we have a great bond. He knows how to get (the ball) to me, and I know how to help him out when he's in trouble."
Williams and Manteca may get another shot at Oakdale (9-1), the top seed and reigning champion in D-III. The two are positioned on opposite sides of the bracket. If they meet again it will be in the final Dec. 1 at Lincoln High in Stockton.
Quick cameo for the MMC?
The Modesto Metro Conference qualified three teams for the postseason, but it might be a short stay for Gregori (10-0), Modesto and Downey (8-2). All three are underdogs on Thursday, according to projections at CalPreps.com.
The undefeated Jaguars host Franklin of Elk Grove in their Division I opener, but home-field advantage may be Gregori's only advantage. Franklin hails from the Delta League, home to some of the section's proudest programs. CalPreps predicts Franklin will win 26-20.
Modesto also faces a team from the Delta League, its champion and the No. 4 seed, Jesuit of Carmichael. The game will be played on Saturday afternoon, which will challenge the Panthers' game-day routine. Modesto won't be wowed by the athleticism, but the Marauders' depth of talent can be overwhelming. Isaiah Rutherford is a 1,000-yard back averaging 10 yards per carry, Laiatu Latu has 11 sacks and two interceptions, and Jason Gallagher leads the team with 105 tackles. CalPreps doesn't think it will be close: Jesuit 35, Modesto 6.
Downey has limped to the finish and will be tasked with a road trip to Rocklin, a big-hitter from the Sierra Foothill League. Rocklin's record is deceiving. The Thunder are 6-4 with a two-game losing streak, but the four losses are to Clovis West, a Central Section giant; Oak Ridge, the No. 2 seed in Division I; Folsom, the top seed in D-I; and Granite Bay, the top seed in D-II. The Knights will put up points with junior quarterback Bryce Peterson, one of the section's top gunslingers, but there are concerns defensively. Downey has given up 30 or more points in each of its last two games, and it yielded a league-worst 24 points to unbeaten Johansen. CalPreps expects more of the same: Rocklin 41, Downey 28.
Don't sleep on Ripon
The Trans-Valley League kept Stanislaus District football fans on the edge of their seat into Week 10 and it produced a three-way championship split, but the seeding committee didn't do the toughest small-school conference's No. 1 overall seed any favors.
Ripon was made a No. 7 seed in the Division V playoffs and will travel to No. 2 Calaveras on Friday. Meanwhile, the other two champions, Modesto Christian and Escalon, open the Division VI playoffs at home.
Something tells me the Indians will be OK, though.
Chris Musseman's group has fed off adversity this season. They were cast as underdogs in the TVL title chase and picked by The Modesto Bee to lose to Escalon, a game that would have ended their hopes of a championship. Instead, Ripon throttled the Cougars and have shown no signs of slowing down, pummeling Hughson and Hilmar en route to a three-game winning streak.
Quarterback Ryan Daggett has blossomed into one of the district's top juniors. He has a flair for the dramatic, too, throwing two fourth-quarter touchdowns in a comeback bid against Modesto Christian and spirit-breaking TD pass to Roland Davis against Escalon.
Michael Winters and Davis are the speed merchants in the Wing-T offense, while Dylan Sexton sets the physical tone.
Ripon (7-3) isn't favored to beat Calaveras, which looks to complete the sweep of TVL champions, but that's exactly the kind of bulletin board material Musseman and his bunch thrive on.
Oh, you again...
There are two rematches on the schedule Thursday: Turlock at Tracy in a Division I first-round game, and Gustine at Modesto Christian in Division VI.
Behind a strong performance by sophomore quarterback Logan Fife, Tracy edged Turlock on Sept. 8, 29-22. The two teams with similar mascots (Bulldogs) battle for "The Dog Bone," a pet store find painted in the schools' colors. Turlock seeks its third victory in the last four meetings.
Modesto Christian snapped a three-game losing streak to start the season with a 42-21 triumph at Gustine. The victory signaled the turnaround in the Crusaders' season. Coach Mike Parsons turned to junior quarterback Hayden Sauser, welcomed back the Shotgun Wing-T offense, and moved former starting QB Rory Hanson to wide receiver.
You can't argue the results. Modesto Christian won five of their next seven games, clinched a share of the TVL crown and qualified for the postseason as a 5-5 program with the most opponent wins. Sauser was brilliant in the win over Gustine, throwing for 192 yards and three touchdowns on just nine attempts.
Gustine hopes to return the favor. Gustine was shutout in last week's rivalry loss to Orestimba, despite another strong performance from running back Oliver Perez (16 carries, 152 yards).
PLAYOFFS (WEEK 1)
Last Week: Burns: 21-6 (239-62). Cortez: 23-4 (243-59)
THURSDAY, NOV. 9(all games start at 7 p.m. unless noted)
No. 10 Franklin at No. 7 Gregori Burns: Gregori Cortez: Gregori
No. 9 Turlock at No. 8 Tracy Burns: Turlock Cortez: Turlock
No. 14 Stagg at No. 13 Central Catholic Burns: Central Catholic Cortez: Central Catholic
No. 11 Downey at No. 6 Rocklin Burns: Rocklin Cortez: Rocklin
No. 13 Buhach Colony at No. 4 Del Campo Burns: Del Campo Cortez: Del Campo
No. 16 McNair at No. 1 Oakdale Burns: Oakdale Cortez: Oakdale
No. 15 Rio Americano at No. 2 Manteca Burns: Manteca Cortez: Manteca
No. 13 East Union at No. 4 Patterson Burns: Patterson Cortez: Patterson
No. 8 Highlands at No. 1 Sonora Burns: Sonora Cortez: Sonora
No. 5 Colfax at No. 4 Orestimba Burns: Orestimba Cortez: Orestimba
No. 7 Mariposa at No. 2 Escalon Burns: Escalon Cortez: Escalon
No. 5 Gustine at No. 4 Modesto Christian Burns: Modesto Christian Cortez: Modesto Christian
No. 6 Brookside Christian at No. 3 Stone Ridge Christian Burns: Stone Ridge Christian Cortez: Stone Ridge Christian
No. 5 Big Valley Christian at No. 4 Woodland Christian Burns: Woodland Christian Cortez: Big Valley Christian
FRIDAY, NOV. 10
No. 11 Rio Linda at No. 6 Los Banos Burns: Rio Linda Cortez: Rio Linda
No. 7 Ripon at No. 2 Calaveras Burns: Calaveras Cortez: Calaveras
No. 6 Hilmar at No. 3 Summerville Burns: Summerville Cortez: Summerville
SATURDAY, NOV. 11
No. 13 Modesto at No. 4 Jesuit, 1 p.m. Burns: Jesuit Cortez: Jesuit
Ripon Christian first-round bye