The highly anticipated game between the Oakdale and Manteca varsity football squads took place in Manteca on Friday night, Sept. 28. For the Mustangs, it was an opportunity to silence some of doubters following the team’s loss to the Buffaloes in last year’s CIF Section title game. However, when the final whistle blew, it was Manteca picking up the win, a 19-14 victory.
“We had the chance to prove to some doubters out there, including some that were in the huddle, that we could win here. On the plus side, I think this is what we needed. The players played hard tonight, and can’t be down on themselves too long,” Mustangs head coach Trent Merzon said following the loss.
Manteca (3-3, 1-1) jumped out to 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter when quarterback Ryan Ward connected with Jorge Cedano from 14 yards out. Late in the first quarter Oakdale’s defense began to apply pressure on Ward. Peyton Bradford broke through the Buffaloes line and forced Ward to release the ball and into the hands of Oakdale’s Carson Frazee for the interception. Later that drive, Max Moore found the end zone from three yards out to tie the game with 10:54 left in the half. Moore finished the game with 13 carries for 32 yards and the touchdown.
Oakdale’s secondary got involved again when Jaiden Williams intercepted Ward at their 29-yard line with 8:56 left in the second quarter. Seconds later Caleb Kuppens bullied his way through Manteca’s front line and secondary on a fierce 71 yard rushing touchdown to give Oakdale a 14-7 advantage. Kuppens finished with 11 carries for 127 yards and a touchdown. Manteca answered with Ward connecting with Cedano for the second time in the half for a 14-yard touchdown with 2:10 left to play, the point after touchdown was no good, leaving Oakdale clinging to a 14-13 lead.
The Mustangs drove down the field and into the red zone to try and build their lead before the half ended, but quarterback Hayden Knittel was sacked with two seconds left to play, knocking them out of field goal range.
A scoreless third quarter, and Oakdale’s defense continued to give the Buffaloes’ offense headaches. Ward threw two more interceptions in the third quarter as Williams got his second of the game and Cameron Burke also intercepted the ball for Oakdale.
“It was a tough matchup for us tonight, but we (the secondary) knew that we would see opportunities down field and I feel like we did a decent job tonight as a group,” said Burke.
In the fourth quarter, Ward found an open Imanol Fernandez from 15 yards out with 8:08 left to play to give Manteca a 19-14 advantage. Manteca’s two point conversion attempt – which would have put them up by seven – fell short. Oakdale marched down the field with less than three minutes to play and faced a fourth and six from the Manteca 10-yard line and Knittel threw an interception in the end zone on a pass intended for Zeke Saffar.
Oakdale’s defense held and had the opportunity once again with 56 seconds left to play and faced a fourth and three from their own 29-yard line. Saffar gained five yards to pick up the first down; however, Oakdale’s rally came to an end on a Knittel interception that was returned by Isaac Searcy to the Oakdale three-yard line with 23 seconds left to play. Knittel finished the game completing six of his 17 pass attempts, throwing for 46 yards and two interceptions.
Oakdale (5-2, 1-1) looks to get back into the win column this Friday when they travel to take on Sierra (3-3, 1-1). Sierra is coming off a bye week but lost to Central Catholic 55-7 in their last game played on Sept. 21. Oakdale defeated Sierra 48-7 last season. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.