East Union freshman coach Mike Kuhnlenz urged his team to celebrate their 3-1 start to the season last Friday after beating Atwater 54-7 at Dino Cunial Field.

He also reminded them of what was to come.

This week the real fun begins for the seven Manteca region teams in four different leagues. East Union kicks off the rugged Valley Oak League schedule this Friday in Oakdale. Kuhnlenz enjoys the progress the Lancers have made in adapting to new offensive and defensive patterns and is delighted to be sitting on a winning record, but…

“FLIGHT is FLIGHT,” Kuhnlenz said on Friday, anticipating a FLIGHT calendar featuring four teams with perfect records and wins over quality opposition. Reigning tri-champions Manteca (4-0), Central Catholic (3-0) and Oakdale (3-0) are the top favorites again, but Kimball (3-0) continues to impress under the new Coach LaTef Grim and third year quarterback. Nicolas Coronado. All four are in the top 10 teams in the Sac-Joaquin section, according to the MaxPreps computer ranking – Central Catholic is at No.5, Manteca at 6, Kimball at 8 and Oakdale at 10.

Manteca opens at Sierra (0-4), Kimball hosts Weston Ranch (1-3) and Central Catholic takes power from the Bay Area Bellarmine Prep at San Jose City College on his leave of the league.

There is also a three-way title defense in the Trans-Valley League, home of two 2019 state champions. Ripon (2-2), the California Interscholastic Federation Division IV-AA titlist, starts at Modesto Christian (0 -2). Meanwhile, Division IV-A champion Escalon is tested by Hughson (4-0) at the gate while suffering a superb one-sided loss to Kimball. Upstart Livingston (3-1) has the opportunity to prove it for real to Hilmar (4-0), who was part of the TVL title division with Ripon and Escalon two years ago.

Riverbank (0-2), led by former Manteca pupil and former Lathrop coach Joe Pirillo, fills his initially scheduled week 4 leave with a game against Ripon Christian (2-1). More on that later.

Lathrop and Ripon Christian are both coming out of their weeks off. The latter is the reigning two-time champion of the Southern Athletic League. Knights league opener Denair (0-2) has had to back down due to COVID-19 protocols. Waterford (3-0) and Orestimba (2-1) appear to be the main threats to the RC throne.

In the Western Athletic Conference, 3-0 Grace Davis became the overwhelming favorite after three resounding victories. Many 2019 contenders, including champion Beyer (0-3), Johansen (1-3) and Los Banos (0-3), are in the process of rebuilding themselves. This opened the door for Lathrop and Ceres, two 2-1 teams who face each other this Friday.

Here’s a look at the Week 4 games for teams in the region:

Manteca in Sierra: The 27th meeting between these intra-city rivals will take place on the evening of Sierra’s return.

The winless Timberwolves will be hoping to build on their promising second-half effort at Stagg. They ultimately missed 49-35 but scored 21 points in the fourth quarter as runner-up Anthony Grady exploded for 270 yards and three touchdowns in 28 carries. Sierra has been limited to just eight points in the previous three competitions.

Meanwhile, the Buffaloes own the only perfect record in the Manteca region. They average 45 points per game while holding four traditionally powerful spread offenses at 21.25. They recorded a Route 44-36 victory over Turlock last week when they weren’t at full power.

Manteca has won eight straight wins against the Timberwolves and leads the series all-time, 20-6.

East Union head coach Mike Kuhnlenz prepares quarterback Luke Weaver ahead of their game against Atwater last Friday.
– photo by Wayne Thallander

Union East in Oakdale: The Lancers closed the gap in what has been a lopsided series with Oakdale, but is this the year they finally recover from the bump?

East Union has lost 27 straight games to the VOL heavyweight after its 35-27 loss to the Mustangs in the spring. Much has changed since then, as the Lancers’ coaching staff underwent a complete overhaul with the hiring of Mike Kuhnlenz. His spread attack improved every week with talented QB Luke Weaver at the epicenter.

Oakdale versus with his Wing-T led by third-year quarterback Jackson Holt, a three-star prospect, according to 247sports. The Mustangs waxed Archbishop Mitty 56-13 at The Corral last week. Mitty, a renowned parish school in San Jose, is part of the highly competitive West Catholic Athletic League. Yahir Ayala burned the Monarchs for six hits.

Oakdale celebrates homecoming on Friday.

Weston Ranch in Kimball: The Ranch have let some winnable games slip through their fingers in the fourth quarter for the past two weeks. It only gets harder from here, starting with an explosive Kimball team that just wiped out state champion Escalon, 54-14.

Coronado wowed the Jaguars, completing 33 of 41 passes for a whopping 516 yards and five touchdowns. He’s the section’s top passer – the EU Weaver is No.2, according to MaxPreps – with 1,222 yards, 13 touchdowns and three interceptions.

Many of Coronado’s best targets of the spring are also back, including seniors Mason Rivera (24 receptions, 444 yards, five touchdowns) and Willie Clifton (18-429-5). Kimball looks set to make the SJS playoffs for the second time in the school’s short history.

Ceres in Lathrop: This is the biggest clash of the WAC opening week, which could have implications for the championship in the future.

Ceres may have their best team since 2004 when the Bulldogs last made the playoffs. Lathrop has only made the playoffs once (2015) in his 12-year college life.

Ceres has a balanced offense led by junior sophomores Landyn Hudson (337 passing yards, five touchdowns) and Tarrell Lee-Gill (359 rushing yards, seven touchdowns). The Bulldogs also have two 6-foot-3 receivers in senior Verlis Smith (229 yards, four TDs) and LeBron Stallworth (89 yards, TD). They had resounding victories over the hapless West and Johansen, and their loss came to local rival Central Valley, 20-18.

Lathrop is 0-2 against Ceres so far. The Spartans are well rested after their week off which followed back-to-back wins over Mt. Diablo and rival Weston Ranch.

Fall 2021 sports bulletin

Ripon head coach Chris Musseman sets up the offense for drills during preseason training.
– photo by JONAMAR JACINTO / Le Bulletin

Ripon at Modesto Christian: The Indians began to regain some of their championship bluster from 2019 and just in time for the TVL game. They’ve had compelling wins over Center and Calaveras over the past two weeks after losing five in a row going back to the shortened spring season.

There is an opportunity for Ripon to continue his momentum against the reconstruction of Modesto Christian (0-2). The Crusaders had two games called off in successive weeks and were shut out by Delta 40-0 on the other side of that extended break.

Friday’s game at Roy Blakeley Field features two massive receivers who double as defensive linemen. At 6-foot-5, 225 pounds, Everett Hunter plays for Modesto Christian, while Ripon has 6-7, 230 pounds Bronson Burrow – he transferred from MC after his freshman year. The Crusaders have another electric weapon in 6-3 Elmo Warston, their main rusher and a threat of pass capture.

Ripon Christian at Riverbank: These programs come together because of the cancellations of their opponents. This is already the second time this season that Ripon Christian has to look for a new opponent in the middle of the week.

The Knights are former TVL members who haven’t played at Riverbank since 2009. They have a historic 3-1 advantage over Riverbank. Finding a replacement was crucial for Ripon Christian as he aims to stay alert for important SAL games ahead. Orestimba is visiting next week.

For the Bruins, this is their last tune-up for the rigors of TVL. Their last victory came on August 24, 2018, 14-3 against Delta, and they have lost 24 in a row since.

Alex Nisperos is the workhorse of Riverbank’s heavy attack. He’s also the Bruins’ best defensive player as a solid security.

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