High School Football

‘I was getting hit a lot.’ Saint Francis harasses Campiotti, sacks Buffaloes’ magical season

The quarterback chasing a Division I scholarship ran into a defensive line with too many to count.

Manteca’s Gino Campiotti was slammed, sacked and harassed throughout by Saint Francis of Mountain View’s front seven in a 28-23 loss on Saturday in the CIF Northern California Division II-A regional bowl at Guss Schmiedt Field.

The Lancers sacked Campiotti three times in the fourth quarter and stripped him of the football as the Buffaloes were nearing the red zone down 28-17.

“Hands down, that’s the best front-seven I’ve ever seen,” Campiotti said. “This front, they were so good. They have dudes going to every college in the country. They’ve got an Army All-American nose guard (Tyler Manoa). My guys were battling for me and I was getting hit a lot, especially early. I was telling my guys, ‘I know you’re giving it all you got. I’ll take these hits all night long for you.’ ”

He did.

Saint Francis (10-4) surged ahead on the power and speed of running back Darrell Page, who had 233 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries, but it remained in control thanks to a defense that overwhelmed the undersized Buffaloes.

Manteca (12-3) abandoned the run from the start, mustering just 41 yards on the ground.

Instead, the traditional power run team used three- and four-receiver sets, and threw the ball nearly 50 times.

“Their front-seven was strong, but I’m proud of my guys,” Manteca coach Eric Reis said. “Look at that guy – No. 55 (Rodrigo Gonzalez). That’s the center for Manteca High. He’s 5-foot-6, 180 pounds. Their guy was an Army All-American. That kid battled his butt off. He was getting beat left and right, but that’s what you want. You have to fight your tail off and he did it. Unfortunately, they created just enough pressure that Gino wasn’t able to get comfortable enough to get our receivers going.”

Campiotti closed his prep career with another awesome aerial display, throwing for 319 yards and a 35-yard touchdown to Jacob DeJesus in the final 90 seconds to close the Buffaloes within five.

But Saint Francis, the Central Coast Section Open Division runner-up and a juggernaut from the renowned West Catholic Athletic League, recovered the onside kick and finished the game in victory formation.

Nicholas Robinson fell on top of the bouncing ball, providing a bookend finish to the regional clash. Robinson opened the scoring for the Lancers with a 1-yard run in the first quarter.

Saint Francis advances to next Saturday’s CIF State Division II-A championship at Sacramento State, while the Buffaloes enter the offseason with some uncertainty.

Third-year varsity seniors Ferrin Manuleleua, Justin Kakala and Campiotti posed for a picture in the north end zone. Along with offensive lineman Kyle Reis, another third-year varsity starter, the quartet formed the nucleus for arguably the most-talented team in school history.

These Buffaloes certainly were the most decorated bunch. Manteca won back-to-back Sac-Joaquin Section titles, including a 34-17 triumph over Oakdale in last week’s D-III final.

Under coach Reis, Manteca has mastered the section final, winning five of its six trips. The regional level remains a mystery, though. Manteca is now 0-3 in NorCal bowls, including last year’s 49-21 loss to Menlo-Atherton in the Division II-AA bowl.

“I’ll appreciate it, but this sting will never leave,” Campiotti said. “I like to think of myself as a competitor. Losing hurts more than winning feels good. I’ll remember this more than I’ll remember any of the big victories. That’s just the type of person I am. It will stay with me forever.”

The Buffaloes led only once on Saturday. Campiotti booted a 24-yard field goal one play after taking a stinging, blindside hit from Junior Fehoko, a sought-after defensive end. Fehoko, who holds seven D-I offers, had one sack and helped close the pocket around Campiotti, who completed just 25 of his 48 passes.

One week after an electric start against Valley Oak League rival Oakdale, Manteca found itself chasing.

Saint Francis scored 14 points in a minute, highlighted by long runs by Page. He had a 47-yard rip on the Lancers’ first offensive play, setting up Robinson’s 1-yard plunge. After three straight incompletions by Campiotti, Page left a trail of Buffaloes in his wake on a 51-yard burst to make it 14-3.

Manteca’s defense would force three turnovers, including interceptions by Dominic Rea and Matt Ender, but Campiotti and Co. failed to turn those extra possessions into points.

“We had a turnover in the second half and couldn’t turn it into points, which hurt,” coach Reis said of Kakala’s fumble recovery with the Buffaloes trailing 21-17. “But again, hats off to them. That’s a very good football team.”

Jorge Cedano and DeJesus were Campiotti’s top targets. Cedano had a team-high nine catches for 97 yards, while DeJesus had eight catches for 118 yards and the late TD. Campiotti also threw a 19-yard strike to Beyer transfer Carter Williams on the Buffaloes’ opening possession of the second half. Williams made a fingertip grab in the back of the end zone to make it 21-17.

Manteca would get no closer.

“This is not the way we wanted this to end,” Campiotti said. “We were that close – five points. We battled.”

James Burns: 209-578-2150, @jburns1980