Taking down the top seed on Saturday, the Oakdale varsity Mustangs brought home the coveted blue banner, winning the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III soccer title over Christian Brothers.
In the beginning of the season, it seemed to many that the varsity soccer team was in a rebuilding year. For a team that featured only three seniors and an uncertainty at goalkeeper, the idea of the Mustangs winning the section championship may have seemed farfetched.
Rebuilding or not, all doubt was put aside when the Mustangs claimed a 2-1 double overtime victory over Christian Brothers High School in action at Cosumnes Oaks High School in Elk Grove on Nov. 15.
Oakdale’s journey to the finals began earlier in the week when the team traveled to Patterson to clash with the second ranked Tiger on Nov. 12. Patterson entered the match without giving up a single goal in the postseason, while Oakdale led the tournament with nine goals scored. Something had to give.
Although the two schools play in different leagues, the ball clubs were familiar with each other through competitive travel ball. The Mustangs jumped out to an early 1-0 lead with an Oscar Padilla score that quickly doubled to 2-0 after a goal by Michael Arauza within the first three minutes of the first half. Oakdale’s offense then stalled but the defense and great stops by goalkeeper, Derek Martinez kept the Tigers off the board and Oakdale took their 2-0 lead into the break. The Tigers pounced on the Mustangs early in the second with a quick goal, but Oakdale’s Jose Becerra countered with a goal of his own minutes later to give the third-ranked Mustangs the 3-1 road victory.
“We knew it was going to be a tough match. We wanted to keep our momentum going from the previous games. Having found the net early gave us the advantage and allowed us to control the second half,” said varsity coach Alfredo Quiroga.
No rest for the weary, as the Mustangs traveled to Elk Grove to take on the top seeded Christian Brothers High School on Saturday, Nov. 15. The odds were against Oakdale, as they took on the defending Sac Joaquin Section Division III champions. CBHS entered the afternoon showdown having shut out two of their three postseason opponents and having outscored them 10-2 in the process.
Oakdale took the field and much like they did against Patterson, struck first and early when Arauza’s kick found the net to give the Mustangs a 1-0 lead. Christian Brothers didn’t go down without a fight and evened the score just before the break. Both teams played physical and nether team would bend over the next 40 minutes, resulting in the overtime periods. Both 10-minute overtimes are played, regardless of scoring; there is no ‘sudden death’ for high school soccer.
Neither team would capitalize during the first 10-minute overtime period, the Mustangs and Falcons still knotted at 1-1. With players on both sides determined to leave everything on the field, Oakdale senior Jose Becerra delivered the game-winning kick from 25 yards out late in the second OT to give Oakdale their first Sac Joaquin Section soccer title since 2003.
“This was a well-played soccer match, by both teams. This was a very tense, emotional game. The way a championship game should be played,” Quiroga said. “I have so much respect for our kids. They entered the season as boys and left as young men in my eyes. Everybody stepped up and did it as a team.”
The journey wasn’t easy for the Mustangs, as they played in a very competitive Valley Oak League just to make the playoffs.
“Our league was very tough this year. Weston Ranch, who won the VOL this year, also won the Division IV title. To have two teams from one league win sections in the same year, should tell you how tough the competition was this season,” acknowledged Quiroga.