Los Banos High’s football team sold out to stop the run against Manteca Friday night, and Buffaloes quarterback Joe Menzel made the Tigers pay for it in a 42-7 Manteca win, completing 16 of 21 passes for 179 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
“They did everything they could to stop our inside running game,” Manteca coach Eric Reis said. “They were stunting, blitzing, this and that, so fortunately for us, OK, plan B, we’re going to throw it. You play that aggressively to stop the run, we’ll throw on you.”
But the key play came on special teams – a dropped punt on the LB 5-yard line gave Manteca a 14-0 lead in the second quarter.
Los Banos fought back, faking a punt and instead snapping the ball to Darren Baty, who ran for 29 yards and a first down. Running back David Walker broke away for a 44-yard touchdown on the next play, starting to the left, then reversing to the right when that was blocked off. The 6-foot-3, 193-pound sophomore charged through a pair of would-be tacklers around 10-yard line and stumbled into the end zone.
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The play fired up the Los Banos players, but that intensity fell off when they weren’t able to stop the balanced Manteca offense. Menzel spread the ball to eight receivers, hitting upback Jacob DeLeon six times for 71 yards and tight end Michael Hatfield four times for 64 yards. Walker’s touchdown, meanwhile, was the only big LB play of the night.
“We couldn’t weather the storm,” Los Banos coach Dustin Caropreso said. “We get the stop we need, it’s a 14-7 ballgame, and we muff a punt at the 5, they score three plays later and it’s 20-7, and that momentum we had just goes. It’s tough to come back from. We’re a young team.”
LB defensive end Jerome Vander Poel played one series after pulling his hamstring during warmups, and stayed on the bench the rest of the game. Walker, meanwhile, left the game at the end of the third quarter with a knee injury, though he said he expects to be back quickly. He finished with 82 yards on 12 carries, more than half of those yards coming on the touchdown run.
“Offensively (Vander Poel)’s in a bunch of different packages, defensively, he’s playing defensive end for us,” Caropreso said. “It’s just, stuff changes, so we’ve just got to iron some stuff out. We knew it was going to be tough. I mean, hell, that’s a good football team. That’s a team you’re going to see probably win the VOL. I think they have a good chance. That’s just me talking, I’m not the prognosticator.”
Manteca’s trickery prompted the LB defense into several offsides penalties, and the Buffaloes even faked out the officials on one play, with running back Michael Gonzalez selling the handoff so well that officials blew the play dead when he was tackled at the line of scrimmage, even though Menzel had the ball 20 yards downfield. Menzel earned a delay penalty for taking it all the way to the end zone.
“It was like a fumblerooski-type play. And I don’t blame them,” Reis said. “Officials are getting harped on by everybody, safety safety safety, so when they see something happening, they’re doing what they’re supposed to.”
Caropreso said before the game that Manteca’s style was to mount long drives, and the Buffaloes didn’t disappoint, taking 5 minutes off the clock with the opening drive, a 12-play, 80-yard affair the culminated with a 6-yard Alex Laurel touchdown run on an end around. The muffed punt led to Menzel’s first touchdown, which he lofted gently over a defender into the waiting hands of DeLeon coming out of the backfield.
“Coach Caropreso’s a good coach. He knows our plan A is to run the football, so they took away Plan A, being very aggressive doing stunts,” Reis said. “Fortunately, we had a Plan B. Again though, that’s a smart coach. You know a team wants to pound the rock, you don’t let them beat you by their first thing, and that’s what you saw tonight. Fortunately we do have a balanced team, so that’s going to make us better. I like the maturation that makes us do.”
After Walker’s touchdown, Manteca drove again and put Gonzalez in the end zone on a 4-yard run.
The Buffaloes went back to work after halftime, with another Menzel-to-DeLeon touchdown pass and a Laurel touchdown in the third, followed by a DeLeon touchdown run in the final frame.