The wait is almost over. Friday night, Dec. 4 the defending Sac-Joaquin Section Champion Oakdale Mustangs get their second chance at the Central Catholic Raiders. The much anticipated rematch between the top Valley Oak League teams will come when they square off at the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division III Football Championship at Lincoln High School in Stockton with kickoff scheduled for 7 p.m.
The game comes a little over a month since then-undefeated Oakdale traveled to David Patton Memorial Field on Friday, Nov. 6 to take on undefeated Central Catholic. The winner would end their season as the 2015 Valley Oak League champions, and earn a number one seed in the Section tournament. Central Catholic’s Fresno State-bound running back, Justin Rice, torched the Mustangs defense for nearly 300 yards and three touchdowns in the regular season finale. Host Central Catholic took a 42-37 victory and the VOL crown. The five-point loss for Oakdale came down to the final minute of the game, when Central Catholic converted on third-and-six leaving the Mustangs without a timeout.
“Central Catholic is all you have to say for us. I don’t know what’s left in the tank. We’re banged up in some spots, but you know what? We’re still playing. We don’t care about a blue banner, it’s another shot at Central Catholic,” said Mustang head coach Trent Merzon. “We came up short a few weeks ago but we get another shot, and that’s all we could ask for. They’re an unbelievable team, but we are too.”
The top seeded Raiders have since played like the top team in the area with convincing playoff wins leading up to the finals. A 42-0 victory over 16th seeded El Camino was to be expected, but the three time State champions followed that up with another shutout, this time over the ninth ranked Christian Brothers, 63-0. In their semi-final matchup, the Raiders shut down the high powered offense of the fifth ranked Placer Hillmen, 48-14. Outscoring their opposition 153-14 to advance to the finals, the Raiders will look to use the same offense-rich, defense-stingy approach against the Mustangs.
Oakdale, the second seed in the DIII bracket, has put up 156 total points in their three postseason games. The Mustangs knocked off 15th seeded El Dorado 63-33, 10th seeded Benicia 42-14 and eliminated the third seeded Inderkum Tigers from the playoffs for the second consecutive season, dispatching them with a 51-38 victory in the Nov. 27 semi-finals. Oakdale has outscored their postseason competition 156-85.
“We want to beat them. This is a game we wanted since we lost to them earlier this month,” senior quarterback Adam Olsen said on Friday night, knowing they would meet Central in the finals. “We wanted to see them again, and we are going to give it our best shot. We are going to come up with a great game plan, and they (Central Catholic) will come out firing and so are we.”
Fellow Mustang senior Robby Bagley also commented on the grudge match, looking forward to the final battle.
“Honestly it’s going to take toughness, both physical and mental to beat them. We realize what we did wrong last time we played them,” Bagley explained. “We are going to come at them with everything we have and throw haymakers at them. If we win, we win and if we lose, then we will lose trying our best.”
You can pre-order tickets online through prepmo.com where tickets are $12 for adults, students 6-12 are $8 and seniors 60 or older are also $8. Tickets will also be available at the gate Friday night at Lincoln High School. The school is at 6844 Alexandria Place, Stockton.