PATTERSON — Large-school No. 2 Manteca put together a complete performance in its 45-10 conquest of No. 5 Patterson on Friday.
While pleased with the result, the coaches would have preferred more urgency and energy from the players as they continue to ramp up for Valley Oak League play and the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoffs.
“Our big thing right now, especially in the preseason, is we don’t want complacency to creep in,” Manteca coach Mark Varnum said. “Our goal is to be better every week. We know how tough the VOL is, we know how tough D-II is going to be, so we just have to keep getting better no matter what.”
Patterson (1-1), coming off a dramatic comeback win at Hilmar, showed the reigning SJS Division III champ that they were up for the challenge. The Tigers set the tone for what started out to be a between-the-tackles slugfest and trailed just 6-0 after the first quarter.
“We know they’re big up front and physical. It’s like a boxing match; we had to land some body punches and wear them down,” Varnum said. “We knew they were going to come out and grind with us a little bit. Just had to weather the storm.”
In the end, Manteca just had too many weapons for the Tigers, who start several underclassmen — including freshman quarterback Max Medina (9-of-18, 123 yards, TD) — and were down two key linemen.
After throwing just six passes last week, Manteca senior Hudson Wyatt made the most of his opportunities to sling it on Friday by finishing 11-of-14 for 150 yards and three touchdowns.
“Last week, we didn’t really get to throw the ball and we just kept running it,” Wyatt said. “It’s my job to be a team player and keep doing what the coaches want me to do.
“With the pass game, it really opens teams up and it shows teams that we’re more dangerous. We can run and pass.”
Two of his scoring tosses were to Blake Nichelson, who totaled 120 yards from scrimmage (39 on six rushes, 81 on five receptions) while feasting on Patterson’s outsized defensive backs. On his first touchdown, a 10-yard catch-and-run after receiving a quick pass from Wyatt, he dragged three Tigers into the end zone.
They connected again on a one-play drive early in the second quarter, as Nichelson outleaped a cornerback in the end zone for a 30-yard touchdown. Wyatt hit him with a jump-ball lob on the ensuing conversion, pushing Manteca ahead, 22-0.
“Blake is Blake,” Wyatt said. “He’s one of the top players in the section, probably in the state, actually. Every time I throw it up to him I know he’s going to go up and grab it. He’s awesome to have out there.”
Running back Bryson Davis, the star of Manteca’s zero-week rout of Vista del Lago, was bottled up for a half but finished with 72 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. He also had a game-breaking defensive touchdown in the second quarter.
Fullbacks Alijah Cota (5-yard run) and Thomas Perea (7-yard catch) each contributed a touchdown. Manteca rushers combined for 192 yards.
Defense helped spark Manteca’s second-quarter burst. Late in the first quarter, sophomore lineman Isaiah White blocked a punt to help set up Cota’s TD scamper.
Manteca broke it open in a span of three plays. Shortly after the 30-yard Wyatt-to-Nichelson hookup, Perea caused a fumble on an option pitch from Medina to Sean Vincent Hansen Jr. That was when Davis scooped it up at the 18 and sprinted the other way uncontested.
And just like that, the Buffaloes were comfortably ahead 29-0 with 7:57 left in the first half. Sophomore cornerback Eddie Anthony kept the shutout going for Manteca’s defense with a goal-line interception, his second of the season. The Buffs could not capitalize on the turnover, allowing the Tigers to score their only points of the half via a 38-yard field goal from Christian Casillas as time expired.
The damage had already been done, though, as big plays in every facet of the game helped turn the tide for the visitors.
“That’s what we want,” Varnum said. “We have a big-play defense. We want to strip the ball out, we want to score on ‘D’ and we did those things tonight. When our defense plays like that, we’re going to be tough to beat with the weapons we have on offense.”
Manteca held Patterson’s top returning rushers, Lolo Mataele (five rushes, 19 yards) and Hansen (13-45), in check for the much of the game. Tigers coach Rob Cozart was pleased with the effort his team continued to show until the final whistle. The hope is for them to make a similar turnaround as they did last year when they won 10 straight games and made the SJS Division III semifinals after am 0-2 start and a lopsided loss to Manteca.
“Manteca is a really good team,” Cozart said. “We’re young, and it’s good to see them keep fighting.”
Jonamar Jacinto is the sports editor at The Manteca Bulletin.