MANTECA — A familiar feeling filled the Manteca High football locker room before the start of Friday’s 54-18 victory over Tracy.
After losing two straight games for the first time in six seasons, the Buffaloes (2-2), ravaged by injury and doubt since an opening night victory over Lathrop, were cast as the underdog.
“Everybody doubted us against Oakdale in the section championship and everyone was doubting us again,” said junior Jacob DeJesus, referring to Manteca’s stunning 34-17 victory over Valley Oak League champion Oakdale in the 2017 Division III final.
“When people doubt us, that’s what happens. Tracy came out light and we came out with intensity and got it done.”
It was never close.
DeJesus scored three touchdowns and the defensive line harassed highly-touted quarterback Logan Fife, snapping a two-game losing streak with a resounding victory few outside the locker room thought was possible. Manteca played without record-setting running back Trabron Russell, who suffered a high ankle sprain for the second straight season.
DeJesus filled in, returning to a position he was raised in. The small, shifty playmaker had scoring runs of 2 and 3 yards, and a 20-yard touchdown reception from junior quarterback Ryan Ward, who showed no ill-effects of a chest bruise.
“I was super excited,” DeJesus said of his return to the backfield. "Freshman year I played running back and me and (Russell) shared time. To get back there, it was like going back home. That was my main position growing up. I felt right at home.”
Chris Ortiz scored two rushing touchdowns, Miguel Sequiera and Alex Gouveia had one apiece, and Ward connected with Kyle Lynch on a 14-yard scoring strike as the Buffaloes returned to the win column just in time.
Manteca has a little wind in its sails heading into next Friday’s Valley Oak League opener at Central Catholic, the region’s top-ranked team. The Raiders whipped Lincoln of Stockton on Friday, 45-7, resting several starters.
“This win was very important. Losing those two games (against Downey and Granada of Livermore), it felt like the team was getting down, separating and not being a family,” DeJesus said. “This whole week, we tried to regain our confidence and regain our respect. We wanted to come back as a family. This win was huge, and brought us all back together.
“We feel a lot closer and a lot sharper. Right now, we feel unstoppable and we’ll go up against anybody. I believe we’re ready.”
Fife, who engineered blowout victories over Kimball and Buhach Colony, had two touchdown passes, but couldn’t match bullets with Manteca in the first half. The Buffaloes led 41-12 at the intermission. DeJesus credited coordinator Rick James’ defense — not the offense — for creating the separation.
“We know he’s a great quarterback,” DeJesus said, “but honestly, our defensive line stepped up. They got some good pressure on the QB and stopped him from making easy reads. Hats off to Logan, he’s a great QB, but our D-line just killed it.”
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