Together, the Oakdale and Manteca football teams stretched the season for the Stanislaus District, reaching the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III final on Dec. 1.
Nearly seven weeks later, the longtime Valley Oak League foes are still giving us reason to talk.
Oakdale (12-2) had a district-best three players named to MaxPreps' all-Sac-Joaquin Section first team, while Manteca (12-3) came away with two first-team selections and a Coach of the Year honor.
The Mustangs captured the VOL crown, its 13th such title in 16 seasons and held the top spot in The Bee's large-school poll for 14 weeks, but couldn't repeat as D-III section champions. Oakdale was beaten by Manteca, 34-17, a victory that allowed the Buffaloes, third in the VOL, to host the CIF State Northern California Division II-A bowl.
Nevertheless, Oakdale was rewarded with three first-team selections: running back Cameron Cherry, the Stanislaus District's only 2,000-yard back; offensive lineman Nico Sarale, the VOL's co-offensive player of the year; and defensive back Bronson Harmon, a hard-hitting safety.
All three were Modesto Bee All-District selections.
Cherry rushed for 2,154 yards and scored 30 total touchdowns, despite playing limited minutes in blowout victories. He had four 200-yard games, including 203 yards in a victory over Central Catholic in Week 10 to secure the league title. Cherry scored the game-winning TD on fourth-and-7 with 21 seconds left.
His 44-yard jaunt was one of the season's signature moments.
"Honestly, I didn't know it was fourth down," Cherry told The Bee after the game. "We just had Buck Left, that's one of our main calls, and just trusted the process of our blocking and our guards and it happened."
Sarale, who is mulling scholarship offers from at least nine Division I schools, anchored an offensive line that produced two 1,000-yard running backs. In three seasons, Sarale has helped pave the way for seven 1,000-yard backs, including Will Semone, who set the district single-season record with 2,851 yards in 2016.
Harmon is an accomplished two-sport athlete. One of the top wrestlers in his weight class (160 pounds), according to SportStars Magazine and The California Wrestler, Harmon has served as the last line of defense for the Mustangs the last two seasons.
Manteca coach Eric Reis was named the Medium Schools Coach of the Year after guiding the Buffaloes to a second straight section title in his final season on the sideline. Manteca avenged a loss to Oakdale in the section final and hosted its first-ever regional bowl. The dream season -- and Reis' remarkably successful career -- came to an end in the regional bowl. The Buffaloes (12-3) were beaten by Saint Francis of Mountain View, 28-23. The Lancers were the eventual Division II-A state champions.
On the field, Manteca was led by first-team quarterback Gino Campiotti, who has committed to Northern Arizona University. Campiotti was brilliant in the postseason. In five playoff games, he passed for 1,343 yards, rushed for 361 and totaled 24 touchdowns.
Campiotti was joined on the first team by offensive lineman Kyle Reis, the coach's son and a three-year varsity starter. Reis and Campiotti were All-District selections.
Modesto Bee All-District Football Player of the Year Bobby Avina was also named to the first team as a utility player. The Gregori High quarterback was the Modesto Metro Conference MVP and one of the most efficient signal-callers in the section. He passed for 3,015 yards and 36 touchdowns while leading the Jaguars (11-1) to a series of firsts: first 10-0 regular season, first league title, and first home playoff win. He completed 67.5 percent of his passes and finished with a 135.5 quarterback rating.
"This was a team that was on a mission," Gregori coach Jason McCoy told The Bee in December, "and Avina embodied that mission."
Central Catholic running back Dauson Booker and Mariposa quarterback/punter Colton Weidner also made the first team.
Booker rushed for 1,838 yards and 25 touchdowns for the Raiders (10-2), who reached the semifinal round of the Division II section playoffs. Booker, who has committed to the University of Wyoming, shared the VOL's offensive player of the year award with Oakdale's Sarale.
Weidner averaged 40.7 yards per punt and landed 14 inside the 20-yard line. He had 49 punts for 1,993 yards.
All-Sac-Joaquin Section second-team selections included: Gregori tight end Gabriel Sanchez; Manteca defensive lineman Justin Kakala; Patterson defensive lineman Jacob Vainuku; and Manteca linebacker Ferrin Manuleleua.
Folsom wide receiver Joe Ngata was named the MaxPreps Sac-Joaquin Section Player of the Year, while teammates Kaiden Bennett (quarterback) and Tanner Ward (defensive back) were named offensive and defensive players of the year, respectively.
Granite Bay's Will Craig was the Lineman of the Year. Jesuit's Isaiah Rutherford was the Junior of the Year, while Daniyel Ngata was the Sophomore of the Year.
Folsom's Kris Richardson is the Large School Coach of the Year after guiding the Bulldogs to a 16-0 season and the Division I-AA state title. Placer's Joey Montoya is the Small Schools Coach of the Year.