In the much-anticipated rematch of the 2014 CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Finals, the second seeded Oakdale Mustangs hosted the third seeded Inderkum Tigers on Friday night, Nov. 27. In front of nearly 3,000 day-after-Thanksgiving fans, the Mustangs added another layer to that feeling of thankfulness, as they outlasted the Tigers 51-38 in the semifinals shootout.
Inderkum struck first on an Isaiah Crocker 97-yard opening kickoff return for a quick score to give the visitors an 8-0 advantage just 16 seconds into the game.
“We know who they are. We knew they were going to have explosive plays throughout the night, did not expect them to score on the opening kickoff, but you know what, they are so unbelievably dynamic, but we tell our kids, they were going to make big plays just don’t freak out early,” explained head coach Trent Merzon.
The coach added that he felt his squad would have the chance to counter with some big plays of their own and they followed that script.
The resilient Mustangs answered the challenge with a 12-play, 63-yard drive on their first possession that was capped off by a Brad Aquino one yard touchdown rush with 5:53 remaining in the first quarter. Facing a third-and-one from the Inderkum 18 yard line, Aquino picked up seven for the first down. Two plays later, following a penalty, quarterback Adam Olsen found his running back Austin Burke all alone in the end zone for the score extending the Mustangs lead to 14-8 with 1:16 remaining in the first quarter. Like the Mustangs, Inderkum refused to go down quietly, as running back DeAngelo Morgan rushed down the visitors’ sideline for a 67-yard rush before Ben Solario took him down as the first quarter expired. The Tigers would score on a Nate Tupai one yard leap over the Mustangs defensive line early in the second. As they would all night, the Tigers attempted a two-point conversion and took the lead 16-14 with 11:24 remaining in the first half. The see-saw battle continued when Aquino found the end zone for the second time in the half on a two yard rush with 8:02 to play in the half, regaining the Mustang lead to 21-16. Aquino finished the night with 122 rushing yards on 28 carries.
Oakdale’s defense made big plays to help lift the Mustangs to the victory, including key stops late in the first half. Deep in their own territory, Inderkum faced second-and-nine from the 14 yard line. Tiger quarterback, Trajon Cotton’s deep pass intended for Crocker was broken up by Robby Bagley forcing third down. On third and long, Bagley along with Louis Marsella and Cullen Bearden rushed Cotton and took him down for the sack at the nine yard line. Bagley disrupted the punt attempt after a bad snap and tackled the punter at the one yard line with 6:27 left in the half. Oakdale’s offense cashed in on the brilliant defensive stand, on Aquino’s third touchdown of the half, giving Oakdale a 28-16 advantage. The ensuing kickoff, Bagley hustled down field tripping up the kick returner in the end zone, but Inderkum was awarded forward progress just outside the one yard line. On third down, Oakdale blitzed Cotton forcing him to roll to his left and throw the ball away while still in the end zone. No Tiger receivers were in the area of the pass, resulting in a safety, as the Mustang faithful cheers could be heard across town when the scoreboard showed 30-16 in favor of the Mustangs with 5:11 remaining in the half. Following the safety, the cheers got louder when Aquino scored on a 25-yard rush with 4:31 left, giving the Mustangs a commanding 37-16 lead. However, the Tigers high-powered offense added a touchdown before the half expired, to close the halftime deficit to 37-24. Both defenses stood tall in the third quarter leading to an offensive struggle on both sides. Olsen’s only error of the game came in the third quarter when his deep pass attempt to tight end Greg Hickman was intercepted at the Inderkum 19 yard line. Three plays later, Inderkum coughed up the ball in Mustang territory and an alert Bagley fell on it for the turnover. Alas, Oakdale’s attempt on fourth-and-eleven from the Inderkum 29 yard line came up short as Burke dropped the pass attempt with 3:01 left in the quarter. As time expired in the third, Inderkum’s Tupai scored on a five yard rush for the only score of the quarter, cutting the Mustang lead to 37-32. Burke made up for his dropped pass, when the senior broke loose for a 58-yard rushing score 52 seconds into the fourth quarter. Less than two minutes later, Inderkum found the end zone on a 36-yard touchdown pass to Jimmie Johnson, leading to a 45-38 Oakdale lead with 9:50 remaining in the game.
The final score of the evening came on a Burke one yard touchdown run with 5:17 left to play. Burke finished the game with 152 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Burke also added one reception for 12 yards and a touchdown.
Oakdale’s defense shut down the Tigers offense over the final five-plus minutes of the game. Oakdale’s Solario, Marsella, Bagley, Lane Trapp, Erik Helms and Bearden made key plays down the stretch for the Mustangs. Also adding to the defense was Michael Everett’s sack on third-and-21 with 2:44 left.
“I was thinking of the situation. I knew it was going to be a pass play. Everyone on the team did their part tonight, did their job,” Everett said of his play.
“This was an emotional night. It was likely our (the seniors) final home game, and I wanted to go out with a bang. We were down early but bounced back and played as a team,” said Bagley, who finished with seven tackles, half a sack and a fumble recovery.
Oakdale’s offense racked up 485 total yards on the night. Olsen finished with 114 passing yards and one touchdown, and also rushed for 40 yards on four carries.
“It’s an awesome feeling, we sent out a group text to the seniors saying ‘this is it, our final game at The Corral, let’s go out with a bang’,” the senior quarterback said of playing his final game at The Corral.