Manteca football makes strong statement in home opener
One by one, the Manteca High School football team streamed into the century-old stadium, announcing its arrival by ringing an antique bell.
Everywhere you looked at Guss Schmiedt Field, there were tributes to the Buffaloes’ rich past.
A section of grass in the south end zone roped off for alumni. The Geezers Club collecting in the top row of the home bleachers. A memorial near the ticket booth, honoring the life and accomplishments of former coach Joe Miller, who lost a four-year battle with throat cancer.
And a coaching staff, led by Eric Reis, that hasn’t changed much in more than a decade.
The Buffaloes go to great lengths to uphold tradition off the field. On it, Manteca attacks the opposition with a thirsty young wave of players. To be certain, this is a group the Buffaloes’ past section title-winning teams can be proud of.
Manteca (2-0) made an impressive home debut Saturday evening, overwhelming Christian Brothers of Sacramento 39-6 with a complete performance.
“I was proud of them. We had not played a second half and I thought we did tonight,” said Reis, who was admittedly concerned by Christian Brothers’ number of Division I prospects. “The kids did not let up. What I was impressed with was that the next guy in kept it up. There was hitting going on from every guy in the game.”
Five players found the end zone, Justin Kakala recorded two sacks, and Manteca scored the first 39 points against a team it may see in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs.
After a sluggish second half during a season-opening win at Buhach Colony, the Buffaloes kept their foot on the gas. Manteca scored on its first five possessions and didn’t yield a first down until late in the second quarter.
“We did pretty good,” said senior wide receiver Jose Garcia, who had 150 total yards. “We did better than last week. We’re progressing.”
The Buffaloes (2-0) are led by a talented junior class that cut its teeth on a 9-3 team last fall, and each one made his presence felt.
Junior quarterback Gino Campiotti was 9 of 10 for 121 yards and a touchdown. On the final play of the first quarter, Campiotti bought time with his feet and then fired a pass to the front pylon, where Joel Olmos made a diving catch. Campiotti also booted a 22-yard field goal to start the scoring.
Garcia highlighted a 22-point burst in the second quarter. He raced around the edge for a 31-yard scoring run and then set up Kameron Beamon’s 10-yard touchdown run with a 43-yard reception.
Beamon had 96 yards on eight carries, while Garcia finished with 62 yards on seven touches. He also had five catches for 88 yards.
Manuleleua had 41 yards on four carries. He and Seth Owings had one-yard scoring runs.
“I love this. We’re good in every aspect. It’s not just one thing we do right,” said Campiotti, who split time in 2015. “Being able to start every play and make those calls in the huddle, it just feels good knowing I have that responsibility.”
In a running-clock victory, the defense had as much stake in the blowout. Manteca had four sacks and ruined Tyler Vander Waal’s debut under center. The Ball State-committed player missed all of last season after transferring from Elk Grove following the 2014 season.
On this night, though, the Division I prospect was overshadowed by a fly-to-the-ball defense without a single four-year commitment.
Junior Vincent Ferro jumped a pass at the goal line for an interception, ruining Christian Brothers’ best drive of the first half. Rayshon Dozier, another junior, closed the half by driving Vander Waal into the turf for a sack.
After a fumble early in the third quarter gave Christian Brothers the ball deep in Manteca territory, the defense stood tall with its heels on the goal line.
Manteca induced the running clock on the next possession with Owings’ run.
“To have the heart of a champion, you can never give up,” Reis said. “We wanted to get a running clock. These guys are dangerous, so we challenged them at halftime. ‘We need to get this thing to running clock,’ and the kids took that serious and made it happen.”
Manteca will host Enochs (0-2) on Friday.
“We were excited to play this team,” Garcia said of Christian Brothers. “We want to play better opponents, so we can get a better look. … They were all right. I think we could have put up more points if we kept the starters in. We just got to get better as this season goes on.”