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Buffaloes Roam Free In 35-20 Defeat Of Mustangs
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Defender Wyatt Hjelm comes in looking to make the tackle during Friday night action. Visiting Manteca earned a historic Win No. 100 for their coach in a 35-20 victory over the host Mustangs. - photo by Hime Romero/The Leader

It’s beginning to look like the Manteca Buffaloes year, not just in the Valley Oak League, but beyond.

Manteca has the size, speed, seniority and what goes around finally came around for the Buffaloes on Friday night at The Corral, where Valley Oak League heavyweights collided and host Oakdale took it on the chin. The Mustangs got dropped 35-20 for only their third home league loss in 15 years, giving Manteca coach Eric Weis his 100th win and likely breaking the Mustangs’ six-year vice-grip on the VOL title.

Aided by a first-play Oakdale fumble, running back Alex Laurel and the Buffaloes took the hits and stayed two steps ahead of the Mustangs all night, Laurel roaming for 202 yards on 25 carries for three touchdowns. The Buffaloes blitzed the crowd with an early 14-0 lead and after a bizarre series of three straight timeouts at the end of the second quarter, when the opposing sides finally lined up on the half-yard line, Manteca towered over an Oakdale unit that usually has the physical advantage.

Senior quarterback Joe Menzel, who was 15 of 23 for 158 yards and three touchdowns, ran play-action and somehow an all-alone Laurel slipped into the end zone and 1-on-1 with a low pass from Menzel, made the dive to the turf look easy, putting the Buffaloes up 21-0 right before the half. He then broke the game open on his first touch of the third quarter when he raced for an 80-yard touchdown untouched and may as well have taken the VOL trophy to Manteca with him.

At that point, it was 28-0.

Brock Whiting briefly brought the Mustangs crowd to their feet with a 46-yard touchdown burst to the right side and finished the game with over 152 yards and three touchdowns, but they came in a game that was never really in reach for the Mustangs.

The ensuing momentum after Whiting’s initial breakthrough was stopped when a long pass play was called back on a penalty and senior Bailey Dryden was overthrown by Dillon Tamburrino and proceeded to rag-doll a Manteca defensive player to the turf for a 15-yard penalty; as if the Buffaloes needed the help.

Menzel iced the game a short time later with a perfectly placed ball to wide receiver Brandon Dabney, who finished with 7 catches and 107 yards, with one touchdown.

35-20 Varsity.

20-12 Junior Varsity.

42-16 Freshmen.

Manteca swept Oakdale on all three levels on the gridiron for the first time since anyone can remember, putting the Mustangs into survivor mode with four games left in the season and 5-1 Sierra coming to town. The Timberwolves are led by the 6-2, 300 pound Jake Pruitt, one of the District’s top quarterbacks. Coming off a junior year where he had 8 touchdowns and 5 interceptions, Pruitt has proved himself in 2013, throwing for 1,555 yards, 17 touchdowns with 2 interceptions for a 66 percent completion rate through five games. Pruitt was on Maxprep’s state stat watch list after going 27 of 41 for 496 yards in a win against Sonora, 219 of those yards went to two-way starter Lucas Widmer, who had three touchdowns on six catches. Widmer starts at free safety and has two picks on the year, and Reid Maestas leads the middle linebackers in tackles.

The T-Wolves also put up points.

Last year, Sierra lost to Inderkum 69-47 in the second round of the playoffs and this year’s squad averages 45.2 points a game with nine different players scoring touchdowns. During the five straight wins after opening the season with a 32-21 loss at Tracy, the Timberwolves scored 55 in a rout of Grace Davis, before winning a 61-58 thriller at Chavez and routing Kimball, Sonora and Lathrop. They are tied atop the VOL with Manteca, followed by a tie between Kimball and Oakdale.

Following the Friday night victory, Manteca’s Weis celebrated the historic win along with his long-tenured staff in the middle of the field as the Mustangs tried to put the loss in perspective and focus on the task ahead.

The Mustangs will be playing for their postseason lives in a possible shoot-out with Sierra and the added glare of the Homecoming lights will be on them as well, guaranteeing a huge crowd at The Corral on Oct. 18.

Playoff talk starts … or ends for the Mustangs this week.