The Oakdale Corral seems to have magic properties, particularly to teams who come in to play the Mustangs. It has been that way for the past 85 years. That observation held true to form on Friday, Sept. 23, on Mini-Mustang Night, as the Mustangs and Colts ran over the Enochs Eagles from Modesto, 51-7 and 42-0, respectively. It was the first time an Enochs football team had played in the Corral.
“For everyone who plays Oakdale, it is a super-important game,” said Mustang head coach Trent Merzon. “For Enochs it was a huge football game. All they’ve ever heard about is the Corral and I guarantee all they’ve ever thought of is ‘it’s probably overrated.’ It’s not the Corral that poses problems. It’s what they find when they get here. It’s that team wearing red and yellow.”
The varsity game did not seem to start out as an overwhelming experience for the Eagles, however. After two short runs and an incomplete pass deep in their own territory, Eagle punter Gavin Brown ripped off an 11-yard gain on a fake punt to earn a first down. On the next play, quarterback Adam Ammar completed a 57-yard pass to take the ball to the Oakdale 20. Aided by a pass interference penalty and a first down 5-yard run, the Eagles got the ball to the Mustang 4-yard line, but then absorbed losses of six and four yards on the next two plays as the Mustang defense woke up and dug in. A fourth down field goal attempt by Enochs was no good.
Taking over at their own 20, the Mustangs fumbled on their first carry and Enochs was in business again at the Oakdale 29. During the ensuing series, Mustang problems worsened when outstanding linebacker, running back, and team leader Brian Delte had to leave the game with an injury. Nevertheless, the Mustangs acted like Oakdale Kind of Guys and held the Eagles on downs taking over at their own 30.
“We didn’t come out like we needed to come out, with that look in our eyes,” said Merzon. “But we are learning. Now we need to learn how to be a good team.”
The Mustangs showed many of the trappings of a good team from that point on, using the big play to stun the Eagles. Junior Cameron Guthrie (91 yards on 12 carries) started the party on the next series with a 56-yard touchdown run. Later in the first half, Jace Rau (104 yards on 4 carries) rumbled 14 yards, then, following a pass interception by Deagan Sweet, Gabe McDonald (89 yards on 9 carries) dazzled the crowd with a 65-yard scamper going through the middle of the Enochs defense. Later in the second quarter, senior quarterback Mick Merzon (51 yards on 5 carries) went around the right end for a 31-yard touchdown run. As the third quarter began, Merzon (4-5 passing for 53 yards and a touchdown) connected with senior Mason Ahm for a 26-yard touchdown pass. Rounding out the Mustang big plays, Rau electrified the crowd with a 77-yard touchdown run with 10:26 remaining in the game. After the game, Rau, who during the track and field season is one of the Valley Oak League’s top sprinters, attributed much of his success to the Mustang offensive line.
“When I get the ball all I see is green ahead of me,” said Rau, indicating the gaping holes produced by the linemen.
In total, led by the offensive line, the Mustang offense accounted for 436 total yards. Comparatively, the Mustang defense held Enochs to 249 yards in total offense.
Kicker Brock Osmundson was perfect in points-after-touchdown (6 for 6) and added a 23-yard field goal as time expired in the first half of the game. Defensively, the Mustangs, led by Hunter Grubbs, were stingy against the run. The Mustangs, despite giving up 226 yards passing, added fumble recoveries by Grubbs and Sonny Rodin to Sweet’s interception in the parade of takeaways.
After the game, Mick Merzon, who added a 33-yard pass reception from junior Tommy Chance to his outstanding offensive performance, summed up the game this way: “We played well. We had a good week of practice—we prepared well. We had a rough start, but we bounced back.”
One of the highlights of the evening was the annual performance by the Mini-Mustangs. As a fundraiser, the Mustang cheer team hosts children from transitional kindergarten (TK) up through sixth grade as guest cheerleaders for the games. Children in the TK through third grade group cheer during the first half of the JV game, while the fourth through sixth graders cheer during the first half of the varsity game. All three cheer teams (varsity, JV and freshman), on the Tuesday through the Thursday before the game, teach the children a series of Mustang cheers and choreograph and teach a halftime routine. With more than 250 participants, this year’s Mini-Mustang group was reported to be the largest in the history of that tradition.
The varsity Mustangs kick off Valley Oak League play Friday, Sept. 30 hosting the Sierra Timberwolves for Homecoming.
In the JV game, the Mustang Colts (5-0) once again dominated their opponent, in this case Enochs (3-2), with the 42-0 win. With a balanced team offensively and defensively, the Colts have outscored their opponents over five games by 215 points to 18. Leading the way for the Colts offensively was Chase Lopez who electrified the Corral crowd on the game’s first play from scrimmage with a 54-yard touchdown sweep around left end. In total, Lopez would account for 159 of the Colts’ 246-rushing yards and his 78-yard run with time running down in the first half set up the fifth Colt score of the first half. Jackson Gilton added a 45-yard touchdown run up the middle in the first quarter. Andre Galaviz scored on a 21-yard touchdown run with 6:51 remaining in the third quarter for the final score of the evening.
Not to be outdone, the Colt defense, in addition to being stingy throughout the game, added a first quarter pick-six interception for a touchdown by Tyler Stroup, who also serves as the Colts’ starting quarterback.
The JV opens league play, hosting Sierra, with a 5 p.m. kickoff on Sept. 30.
On Thursday, the Mustang Ponies freshman team (4-1) traveled to eastern Modesto to take on Enochs and emerged with a 44-6 victory over the Eagles (3-3). This Thursday the Ponies travel to southwest Manteca to play the Sierra Timberwolves in the first game of the 2022 VOL campaign.