High School Football

Manteca's quarterback-turned-wide receiver has one request: 'Get me the ball.'

Manteca's Gino Campiotti and Jorge Cedano celebrate a touchdown during the Division III Sac-Joaquin Section championship game with Oakdale at Lincoln High School in Stockton, Calif., on Friday, Dec. 1, 2017.
Manteca's Gino Campiotti and Jorge Cedano celebrate a touchdown during the Division III Sac-Joaquin Section championship game with Oakdale at Lincoln High School in Stockton, Calif., on Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. aalfaro@modbee.com

On the campus of Manteca High, a basketball coach with a state championship waits patiently as his top three returning players chase another state title ... with the football team.

Practices and games have felt incomplete for boys basketball coach Brett Lewis, but he understands what is at stake: Gino Campiotti, Jorge Cedano and Matt Ender, key cogs in the Buffaloes' 34-17 victory over Oakdale in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III final, are chasing their own slice of history.

Campiotti threw five touchdown passes, including two to fast-rising talent Cedano, while Ender starred on both sides of the ball in the Buffaloes' sixth section championship.

With the win, Manteca (12-2) advances to its third CIF Northern California Regional Bowl in the last five years and second straight. The Buffaloes are 0-2 with losses to Enterprise of the Northern Section in 2013 and Menlo-Atherton of the Central Coast Section last fall.

Manteca can put all of that frustration behind it on Saturday, when it hosts Saint Francis of Mountain View in a Division II-A regional bowl. Kickoff is at 6 p.m. Saint Francis (9-4) advances as the Central Coast Section's Division II Open Division runner-up.

The Lancers were defeated by Serra of San Mateo in their section final, 31-30. Saint Francis' losses are to Serra twice, De La Salle and Valley Christian of San Jose, the same team Manteca knocked off to start the season.

"We're ready for state," said Cedano, tugging on the bill of his championship cap. "Let's get it."

The Buffaloes look to follow in a long line of state champions from the ever-competitive Valley Oak League.

Central Catholic won four consecutive state titles from 2012 to 2015, dating back to its time in the Western Athletic Conference.

Sierra, Manteca's crosstown rival, made a Cinderella run in 2015. The Timberwolves qualified for the section playoffs at 5-5, dropped down to Division IV and reeled off six consecutive wins to become the first Manteca Unified program to win a football state title.

Last fall, Oakdale captured the school's first state crown with a 47-0 thrashing of Bishop's School of La Jolla.

Now it's the Buffaloes turn to take the baton.

Campiotti, Ender, Cedano and lineman Justin Kakala are the most decorated players in green and white.

Each was a part of the basketball team's run to state glory in 2015. Led by Oregon freshman forward Kenny Wooten, the Buffaloes won 29 games that winter and closed the season with a 60-51 victory over Ayala in the Division III state final.

All four contributed to Manteca's Division IV football title last season, too.

A lower-level call-up his first two times through the winner's circle, Cedano relished the opportunity to be a difference-maker against Oakdale, the reigning VOL, section and state champion.

The 6-foot-1 junior led the Buffaloes with five catches for 67 yards and two touchdowns.

"I've got three now, but this one I had a part in it," Cedano said. "It feels great. There's no feeling like it."

Since a 31-14 loss to Central Catholic on Sept. 22, Cedano has been one of Campiotti's most reliable receivers. He has 39 catches for 543 yards and six touchdowns. In six of the last nine games, he's had 60 or more receiving yards.

Their relationship began as QBs and basketball players in the same system.

Cedano was a quarterback at the freshman and sophomore levels. He moved to wide receiver this season at the behest of the coaching staff. As a freshman, Cedano played on Campiotti's sophomore basketball team.

"This all started from a couple of years back, ever since I came in freshman year. Me and Gino have been like best friends. They said, 'Alright, Jorge, we got to put you in another spot. We want you to play receiver this year' So I was like, 'It's good, but Gino ... you got to get me the ball.' Once I got in, it's been me and him."

That bond came into play during the section final.

Cedano dropped two passes at the goal line, including a slant on fourth-and-1 in the second quarter. Instead of going up 27-3, Oakdale cut the deficit to 20-10 with an 85-yard drive. On the sideline and in the locker room, Campiotti owned the mistake, keeping his young receiver's focus on the next play.

"Me not converting that play, that's on me," Campiotti said. "I was disappointed in myself on the sidelines. When they scored, it hurt even more.

"I'm supposed to be clutch. I'm supposed to make that throw and I didn't. I told him, 'My bad. Keep playing your game, and I'll get you back into the end zone again.' I took all of it on my shoulders, knowing if I did, he'd be able to make plays down the road."

While they may not be playing for Lewis' basketball team just yet, Cedano, a 3-point specialist the last two years, said he and Campiotti are utilizing their basketball skills on the gridiron. A well-timed pass is universal. So, too, is the catch.

"I play basketball, so all this is is just basketball moves for me," he said. "Everything, especially the curls. You just have to get to the open spot and he'll get it to me. He knows what to do.

"We're just ready. We're trying to get to state."