Manteca’s Unsung QB May Not Stay Out Of The Spotlight Too Much Longer •
Story By IKE DODSON | Photos By JIM JOHNSON
A day after blasting Enochs-Modesto 41-0 in the Sac-Joaquin Section nonleague action Sept. 8, Manteca senior quarterback Gino Campiotti found his seat at Aggie Stadium and watched Santa Fe Springs native Jake Maier command the sky — 369 yards and three scores — leading UC Davis to a 35-7 win over San Diego.
Campiotti was a special invite of Aggies coach Dan Hawkins, who watched film of the Manteca gunslinger’s remarkable comeback victory over Christian Brothers-Sacramento the week prior.
A special playmaker with a huge arm and ideal frame (6-foot-3, 195 pounds), the senior talks regularly with coaches from Wyoming, San Jose State, Hawaii, Sacramento State, Northern Colorado and now UC Davis, but he may be the section’s best quarterback without a collegiate scholarship offer.
Tape of his last three minutes against Christian Brothers may change that.
The Falcons led 35-21 with three minutes to play and Manteca’s junior varsity team had already loaded the bus for a somber ride home, but Campiotti caught fire, completing his last 11 passes — including two touchdowns and a two-point conversion to Presley Keltner.
Campiotti’s last heave, a cross-body throw in heavy traffic, hit Keltner in the chest to win the game.
“That was a little bit of Brett Favre,” Manteca coach Eric Reis admitted.
It was the second straight week of thrills for Campiotti and Co. The Buffaloes (3-0) beat Valley Christian-San Jose 22-20 Aug. 25.
Manteca began the third week of September ranked No. 8 in the SportStars NorCal Top 20. The Buffaloes sport plenty of talent on both sides of the ball. Defensively, they’re led by standout linebacker Ferrin Manuleleua and Harvard-bound defensive end Justin Kakala. On offense, Campiotti makes use of a variety of playmakers, including all-purpose threat Carter Williams, tight end Kyle Rachels and Keltner.
Campiotti, who moved up to varsity for the playoffs his freshman year, shared time behind center his sophomore season and led Manteca to a runner-up finish in the CIF Division 3-AA NorCal State Bowl Championships as a junior, has become the heartbeat of Manteca football.
His heart returns the favor.
“Even when I sleep, I dream football dreams,” Campiotti said. “In everything I do, it always come back to football.
“I want to play the game and have fun for as long as I can, before everything turns into a job — into real life.”
The Campiotti household feeds the habit.
“Realistically, in the past year, I have had less than 15 conversations with my dad that didn’t involve football in some shape or form,” Campiotti said. “It always comes back to football, even if it’s just my dad reminding me to act like a quarterback.”
His impression is on the nail.
Since 2015, Campiotti is 244 for 412 for 3,674 yards, 47 touchdowns and 13 interceptions with 558 rushing yards and 10 rushing scores. And he’s at his best when the Buffaloes need it most. Campiotti threw for 318 yards and four touchdowns in a 50-28 win over Placer-Auburn in last year’s SJS Div. IV title game.
He’s already completed 45 of 68 passes for 661 yards and eight touchdowns, with two rushing scores and one interception this year, but it’s not those numbers he’s worried about.
It’s the lack of one.
On Sept. 22, Manteca hosts famed state juggernaut Central Catholic-Modesto, winners of four state championships in the last five years. Campiotti has never beaten the Raiders, and it’s become a personal vendetta.
And Campiotti’s crosshairs is a scary place for Central Catholic to be.
When he was just 9, Campiotti hit his first wall, left off the all-star roster for minor division little league. So he devoted his offseason to the sport and became a youth baseball phenom.
“I probably worked harder than any other 9-year old on the planet,” Campiotti said with a laugh.
It became a trend.
When New Haven Elementary classmates laughed at his attempt to follow in the footsteps of junior-high hoops star Gyse Hulsebosch (who now plays for Westmont College), Campiotti worked on his game five days a week on 24-Hour Fitness courts. Campiotti was a first-team All-Valley Oak League basketball player last year.
His eighth-grade year at New Haven, Campiotti and tight end Kyle Rachels, both stars on the Junior Buffaloes youth football team, were waterboys for Manteca’s 13-2 NorCal runner-up season in 2013.
The dream of football glory became suddenly more real.
“Just being in that environment, experiencing the excitement of a section championship game … I loved it,” Campiotti said.
Losses to Sacramento and Inderkum-Sacramento spoiled repeat performances in 2014 and 2015, but Campiotti found that loving feeling last year, and he wants some more.
He regrets none of his monotonous days — school, weight room, practice, recruit calls, game film, more reps at 24-Hour Fitness and training with personal quarterback coach Matt House.
Ultimately, it all comes down to familiar days and his dad’s advice.
Acting like a quarterback is a lifestyle Campiotti has embraced. You won’t find any posts with profanity, drugs or alcohol on his social media accounts, and his interactions off the field are polite and professional.
“I remember once my sister noticed I retweeted something harmless, but the name of the account was offensive, so I took it down,” Campiotti said. “I don’t want a tweet to be the reason I don’t get a scholarship. I have worked way too hard to have something go down online.”
Social media does give platform to his sister’s epic hashtag — #BroMontana.
He’s lived up to the moniker so far.