Manteca High sophomore Jhadis Luckey rushed for 108 yards and a touchdown in the Buffaloes' 15-0 win over Granite Bay on Friday, Aug. 25, 2023.

Good and Luckey: Buffaloes shut out Granite Bay in section final rematch

Independent Contributor

Manteca High’s fast-rising sophomore running back found himself slowed by two flat tires. Jhadis Luckey lay on the ground near the bench area, face down, as an assistant coach worked feverishly on his cramping calves.

Moments later, with new life in his legs, Luckey put the finishing touches on Manteca’s 15-0 victory over Granite Bay with a 6-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

Luckey rushed for a team-high 108 yards after being thrust into a starring role when senior running back Bryson Davis was ruled out with an elbow injury. Luckey sealed the win with scoring run on fourth-and-1 from the 6, earning a postgame hug from coach Mark Varnum and his mother, two of his toughest critics.

“It was planned to happen for me. I’ve been working hard all summer and the time has come,” Luckey said from beneath the scoreboard. “One of our best players got hurt, but we’ve got so much depth on the team. I stepped up and rose to the occasion and put another seven points on the scoreboard. It really helped the team out.”

At one point, it didn’t look like Luckey would be much help to the Buffaloes, now 2-0 with impressive wins over Sacramento-area heavies to start the season.

Late in the third quarter, with the game still hanging in the balance, Luckey found himself belly down near the bench, writhing in pain.

He winced and moaned as cramps threatened to take him out. He sucked down pickle juice and packets of mustard -- four, to be exact -- as assistant coach Troy McBroom kneaded his calves like dough. "These cramps are no joke!" Luckey bellowed as he sprang to his feet and readied himself for the next offensive drive.

Minutes later, with a new bounce in his step, Luckey waltzed into the end zone on fourth down to give Manteca a 15-0 lead over the Grizzlies. Luckey carried eight times on the drive, bookending the series with runs of 30 yards and 6.

“You just got to push through it, even though it hurt,” Luckey said. “Everyone has pain in their life; you just got to push through it, go back on the field and execute.”

Luckey's star was fast-tracked by an unfortunate injury to one of the region's top offensive talents -- Davis, a 1,000-yard back during a complimentary season alongside Florida State freshman Blake Nichelson and an all-Valley Oak League performer.

Davis suffered a left elbow injury in the season opening victory at Vista Del Lago and was ruled out before Friday's game. Coach Mark Varnum said Davis is week to week and probably could have played against Granite Bay.

The risk, Varnum said, was too great. Plus, they had players waiting in the wings for an opportunity to shine. In Davis’ place, stepped two running backs and a wide receiver: KP McDonald and Luckey, and shifty sophomore Quinn Martinez. They took turns bludgeoning Granite Bay's defensive line in the first half as the game played out to a standstill, 0-0.

“We had more energy in the second half. When we went into the locker room, we seen that it was 0-0; it was a very competitive game,” Luckey said. “We had a long talk in the locker room and Varnum spit some facts . … He wanted us to go out there and shut it down. We all came in the second half and executed.”

In the second half, Manteca and its run-heavy on offense, finally started to wear on the Grizzlies. Senior quarterback Garrison Reis, undefeated in seven career starts from under center, pushed his way in from the 1 to give Manteca a 6-0 lead with 4:16 left in the third quarter. After a defensive flag on the point-after kick, Ruben Moreno rumbled in to make it 8-0.

That's when Luckey, with two cramped calves and a rolled ankle, and the Buffaloes’ road-grading offensive line took over. Lucky carried nine times on his scoring drive.

Varnum praised his team’s depth and ability to handle adversity.

“This preseason schedule is about testing us. Testing us as a team and testing us as players,” Varnum said. “Bryson going down provided us with another test.”

Not to be outdone was the defensive effort by the Buffaloes, who have been nearly perfect in their last six quarters. After giving up 48 points in the Division II final, Manteca shut out the Sierra Foothill League power.

Chris Chavez, Isaiah White and Tommy Perea led the charge the "D-Time" unit. Chavez had two turnovers, a diving interception in the first half, and a fumble recovery in the fourth quarter after Moreno punched the ball free.

White had two first half sacks and led the emotional charge. Perea traveled the field, sideline to sideline and gap to gap, delivering big hits.

“To make a program like Granite Bay tap like that, that’s something to be really proud of,” Varnum said. “The talk up north as the revenge game for Granite Bay. No. This was our defense and coach (Rick) James’ revenge game. After that second half last year, this was the D-Time revenge game and the zero on the scoreboard says it all.”