Sierra stakes claim to Manteca crown

MANTECA -- The Manteca High Buffaloes, a three-time Sac-Joaquin Section champion this decade, entered the field by bursting through a sign reading, "We run this town!"

Afterward, Sierra running back Jarrod Daniels offered a two-word answer: "No more."

Yes, it was personal Friday between intracity rivals, and the hitting was both visual and audible for a near-capacity crowd of about 4,000 at Daniel Teicheira Stadium. But when it was over, the Timberwolves withstood an emotional Manteca comeback and won this Valley Oak League classic 23-15.

Sierra (5-0, 2-0), anchored by Daniels' 21 carries for 109 yards and two touchdowns, built a 23-0 advantage midway through the third quarter. Until then, Manteca (3-2, 1-1) managed only five first downs, a major statement by a program yet to win a VOL title but now a program owning back-to-back wins over the Buffaloes.

"This is the first step," Daniels said. "We came out and set a tone and hit people."

If intensely personal, Sierra's victory also went by-the-book. The Timberwolves didn't commit a turnover while turning two Buffalo turnovers into touchdowns. They also relied on their best players, Daniels and the versatile Anthony Hall, for the solo efforts that defined the game.

And that pregame sign, along with Manteca's stomping on Sierra's logo during warmups, also caught the attention of the home team.

"That gave them a lot of motivation," Sierra coach Jeff Harbison said. "So, we appreciated them stomping on our wolf. It gave our kids a little something extra."

Sierra dominated the first half more than the 16-0 blinking on the scoreboard at halftime. The punting of Manteca's Bradley Hatfield blunted some of the Timberwolves' good field position, and Sierra led only 3-0 through one period.

But The Timberwolves broke through when Daniels found room to his left and completed a 42-yard dash by diving into the end zone near the pylon early in the second period.

Daniels also figured decisively on defense. His hit forced a fumble by receiver Jacob Salas that Sierra's Cody Dias recovered at the Manteca 30. On the next play, Hall leaped high to pull down a pass from Jonathan Davis -- a great catch despite tight coverage by the Buffaloes' Zack Vivit -- for the big-play TD.

"Phenomenal catch," Manteca coach Eric Reis said. "Credit Sierra tonight."

The Timberwolves continued to pull away early in the third quarter after an interception by T.J. Sataua. Six plays and 35 yards later, Daniels dove over the top from the 2 for his second touchdown.

Sierra controlled the tempo by containing Manteca running back Marquis Miller (13 carries, 26 yards) for the second straight year. The Buffaloes also hurt themselves with 11 penalties, one which negated a touchdown pass during the first half.

But Manteca didn't walk away softly. Two explosive plays, the first a 67-yard rip for a touchdown by quarterback Matt Barber and a 57-yard punt return by Reggie Bell early in the fourth quarter, vaulted the Buffaloes within a possession. Bell fielded a punt and tightroped past the Sierra bench to instill life in his teammates.

"We wanted to win a little too much early on," Reis said.