SANTA CLARA -- Wilcox unveiled new black uniforms and helmets Friday night for a season opener originally scheduled for the $1.3 billion Levi's Stadium.
Back on their home field instead because of sod issues at the 49ers' new home, the Chargers put a bolt of electricity into the game's first few minutes, scoring a touchdown on Eduardo Andrade's blocked punt and recovery in the end zone for an early lead.
But Manteca seized control later in the half behind its grinding ground attack and held off Wilcox for a 20-14 victory, a triumph that avenged an overtime loss to the Chargers in the Central Valley last season.
Andrade blocked another punt in the third quarter that gave Wilcox the ball at the Manteca 1. Matt Alquetra's 1-yard run and a 2-point conversion pass on a busted play pulled the Chargers to within six.
Wilcox had opportunities down the stretch, but couldn't get closer.
"You can't turn the football over in a big ballgame," Wilcox coach Dan Brown said, "We didn't take of the football. We're young and we're going to get better as we go. But what a good high school football game. Great way to open up the season. Had a chance there and it kind of slipped away. "
Wilcox entered the new season without many of the playmakers who led the team to the Central Coast Section Open Division playoffs last season, and the offense struggled to find its footing against an opponent that played for a Northern California regional championship in 2013.
But as Wilcox struggled to move the ball with any consistency, Manteca quickly showed that it could pound out yards behind a rushing offense led by 5-foot-6, 179-pound Hector Soto.
Soto scored two touchdowns in the first half, the first on a 13-yard, fourth-down run that gave Manteca a 7-6 lead after one quarter.
The senior later scored on a 1-yard run, set up by a 14-yard burst by quarterback Dakarai Charles.
"They were kind of just isolating us, and he would cut off the center and noseguard block, finding a little crease," Brown said of Soto. "They were patient. We knew what we getting into. If we can play with that team, we can play with anybody."
A Wilcox turnover just before halftime set up another touchdown that put Manteca in front 20-6 at the break.
But just when it seemed as if Wilcox might be in deep trouble, Andrade came to the rescue.
"He was our frosh-soph quarterback last year, just a great athlete," Brown said. "He's a football player, a tough kid, wants to be on the field. He played outstanding tonight."
Andrade didn't accept all the credit for his blocks.
"I couldn't have done it without the great support of my D-line," he said. "The only reason I blasted through is because they gave the initial impact to make all the players bite up. That gave me the opportunity to go up and make the block. It's all a team effort."
Andrade paused after the first block and then chased after the ball in the end zone.
"I didn't know what was happening," he said. "I heard everybody yelling, and I turned around and saw the ball in the end zone. I ran up to it and grabbed it. I did all I could for this team. At the end of the day, we all put all we had on the field."
And they fell just short.