Asante Carter and Cayden Ward, two a Saint Mary's major offensive contributors, celebrate a touchdown (Samantha Schmidt).

'If you let them get going ...' Manteca had no answer for St. Mary's balanced attack

Independent Contributor

STOCKTON - On Sept. 1, state-ranked St. Mary’s defeated Manteca, 44-7.

Rams quarterback Samson Hunkin and strong safety Brennan Carr led the way for the Rams, now 3-0 on the young season. Hunkin tossed three touchdowns to anchor the offense, while Brennan Carr led the defensive charge with eight total tackles, including three for a loss. 

St. Mary's now owns victories over two of the Valley Oak League's best. Last week, the Rams escaped a tug-of-war with Central Catholic, edging its Holy Bowl rival 42-33. The Buffaloes, who had a two-game winning streak snapped, were never that close.

Here are three themes from the non-league game: 

Player of the Game

Pictured here against Central Catholic, Kenneth Moore III was the Player of the Week against Manteca (Samantha Schmidt).

Two of Samson Hunkin’s three passing touchdowns were to St. Mary’s sophomore wide receiver Kenneth Moore III, who led the team in all-purpose yards with 170. Moore’s two touchdowns covered 55 yards and 46 yards. Moore finished with a team-high of reception and 150 receiving yards.

Moore’s two touchdowns helped the Rams get an advantage early in the game, putting pressure on the secondary of the Buffaloes. 

“We practice all week so we can come out here and execute,” Moore said. “Manteca is a great team so to come out and win it feels great. … Me and Samson’s connection was on point. He made me look good out there, so I had to return the favor.”

While Moore III may have looked like the best player on the field, the win came with contributions from other players offensively. Senior wide receiver Cayden Ward snagged a 14-yard touchdown and finished with two receptions for 28 yards. Senior running back Asante Carter finished with 109 total yards (86 rushing yards on nine carries and one reception for 23 yards) and two rushing touchdowns.

First half highlights

After forcing a three-and-out during Manteca’s first drive and a successful field goal from 10 yards out on its first drive, St. Mary’s set the tone early with a 55-yard pass touchdown from Hunkin to Moore on their second drive to make it 10-0 after one quarter.

With eight minutes to go in the half, Carr was credited with a tackle for loss, resulting in a turnover on downs at St. Mary’s 44-yard line. In the second quarter, Manteca’s KP MacDannald landed a big hit on St Mary’s quarterback Samson Hunkin, leading to increased tensions and a personal foul on Aidan Santos, an offensive lineman for St. Mary’s.  In the second quarter, St. Mary’s tacked on touchdowns by Moore and Ward and entered halftime with a 24-0lead.

“If you let them get going, they can pull away from you really quick,” Manteca High coach Mark Varnum said.

Second Half Highlights

Samson Hunkin recorded three passing touchdowns against the Buffaloes (Samantha Schmidt).

In the second half, St. Mary’s didn’t stop the pressure. The Rams had a 67-yard passing touchdown called back due to offensive holding early in the third quarter. That drive would end with a touchdown regardless. Carter sprinted in from 53 yards, extending the lead to 30 points.

Manteca’s woes continued, allowing another rushing touchdown to Carter, his second of the night. Late into the third quarter, Manteca quarterback Garrison Reis snuck into the endzone for Manteca’s first and only touchdown.

With the game already out of hand, St. Mary’s senior running back Christopher Maghoney scored a 55-yard touchdown on his first and only carry of the game, adding the final points to the scoreboard.

“Manteca is a run-heavy formation. They really like to get some big ol’ fellas in there and they love to run the ball,” St. Mary’s head coach Tony Franks said.

Manteca’s run-dominant offense was not as efficient without star running back Bryson Davis (elbow). Sophomore running back Jhadis Luckey, a second-half hero in the Buffaloes' 15-0 win over Granite Bay last week, led the team in carries with 10, but those carries only translated into 17 yards (1.7 yards per carry). MacDannald led the team in rushing yards with 32 yards on four totes.

Gabriel Martinez is a junior at Manteca High. He is enrolled in Sports Media, a class designed to expose students to the many facets of the sports media industry. Martinez’s work is also featured at