MANTECA – No one at Guss Schmiedt Field could keep Gino Campiotti from getting into the end zone Friday night.
The senior quarterback scored six touchdowns as Manteca ended American Canyon’s seven-game win streak and season with a 62-32 victory in a CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division III quarterfinal playoff game.
The Wolves held tough for most of the evening, but the Buffalos’ offense was too much in the end for the visitors.
“He was everything he was billed to be,” American Canyon head coach Larry Singer said of the 6-foot-3, 195-pound Campiotti, who was also 8 of 9 on extra points. “You know you create lanes for him and let him create space, they are going to hurt you. I was outcoached tonight, plain and simple.”
The Wolves finished their final season in the SJS with a 7-4 record and sixth straight Solano County Athletic Conference title. They will head to the North Coast Section next year and a new league featuring fellow local schools Justin-Siena, Vintage and Napa.
American Canyon took its only lead on the opening drive of the game, as quarterback LaVar Seay connected with Erick Stewart on a 68-yard touchdown pass down the left sideline.
Campiotti responded quickly by driving the Buffalos down the field, before punching in the score on a 2-yard quarterback keeper.
“He had his stuff dialed in tonight,” American Canyon running back Eddie Byrdsong said of Campiotti. “He is a really good player, and I wish him luck in the next round.”
The Buffaloes (10-2) will host No. 3 seed Christian Brothers, a 30-21 quarterfinal winner over No. 11 Rio Linda, next Friday night.
The way the Wolves had played in a turnover-free, 17-10 win over River Valley in the first round didn’t carry over.
The first setback happened on their second drive, as a Seay pass went over his intended receiver and was intercepted by senior defensive back Matthew Ender and returned 40 yards for a touchdown.
“They are a team of a lot of history and tradition and it showed.” Singer said. “For a team to be that balanced and that effective is tough to defend. It is impressive what they can do.”
American Canyon battled back from the turnover, driving down the field at the end of the first quarter, and Byrdsong found a hole and bashed his way up the middle of the Manteca defense for an 18-yard touchdown scamper. The extra point was no good, keeping Manteca on top, 14-13.
The Buffalos continued to have answer after answer for the Wolves’ punches, as it took only four plays for them to find the end zone again. This time, backup running back Michael Frisby knocked in the score from 2 yards out. Manteca was without leading rusher Trabron Russell, as the sophomore was held out after suffering an ankle injury in last week’s 62-21 shellacking of Rio Americano.
American Canyon was forced to punt on its next drive, and speedy sophomore Jacob De Jesus returned it 75 yards to the house to put the Buffalos up 27-13. It stayed that way after Campiotti had his one missed PAT of the night.
The Wolves then clawed back to within one score, as Kama Aalona found a hole along the right side of the line and busted out for a 61-yard touchdown run. The senior finished the game as the Wolves’ top rusher with 111 yards on 10 carries.
Campiotti never allowed American Canyon to build any momentum, however. He quickly punched in his second rushing touchdown of the game on the next drive to make it 34-20. The Wolves would never get closer.
“We were outphysical-ed tonight,” Singer said. “Their line was way bigger than we were and that is the joy and the pain of American Canyon. We get a lot of really good athletes around here, but not a lot of big boys. Our boys tried and they fought hard. I don’t blame them for that at all. I love them all and wish it could have ended a little better than this.”
Manteca received the ball to start the second half and once again its offensive unit was in full motion. Campiotti steered the Buffalos on a 13-play drive before taking a 1-yard keeper for his third score and a 41-20 lead, Campiotti was almost perfect for the game, completing 15 of 18 passes for 248 yards while adding 103 on the ground.
Byrdsong scored again on the following drive with a 6-yard burst, bringing American Canyon to within 41-26 with what would be the last touchdown of his junior season.
“These guys are my family,” he said. “I honestly have never played for a team like this that I have been so excited to strap up with. Dealing with all the workouts that coach puts us through, take all the wins and losses, I would do it all again.”
Campiotti added his fourth and fifth rushing touchdowns in quick succession after an American Canyon fumble in the Wolves’ red zone, and later connected with Jorge Cedano with a 4-yard fade pass for another score.
American Canyon ended its season with a last-minute touchdown, as Seay found a diving Brenden Johnson in the right corner of the end zone from 29 yards out.
“This senior class is amazing,” Singer said. “All season they have responded to everything we have asked them to do. They are lunchpail kids. They come to work and put in the work and put in the effort. I could not be more proud of a team that I have coached here at American Canyon.”