After hosting Tracy in a Saturday scrimmage at The Corral, the Oakdale Mustangs will put on the regulation uniforms and head out on the road.
The Friday night football drought is coming to an end. This Friday, Aug. 26 the Oakdale Mustangs junior varsity and varsity teams hit the field. Oakdale’s highly anticipated 2016 season begins against a familiar foe, former Valley Oak League rival Sonora. The teams were longtime rivals that battled it out once a year for nearly a century until the 2015 season, when Sonora relocated to the Mother Lode League.
“Thrilled to be a part of such a nostalgic game, this is our 100th meeting. It means a lot to a lot of people, we have tremendous respect for Sonora and the entire community up there,” Mustangs varsity head coach Trent Merzon said of the season opener.
The two teams last met on Aug. 28, 2015 at Oakdale High School as the Mustangs knocked off the Wildcats 41-15. Since then, the Wildcats have made plenty of noise in the Mother Lode League winning the league in 2015 going 6-0 in league play, and went on to win the 2015 Sac-Joaquin Section Division V championship, 42-30 over Bear River.
“They are the defending Section Champions and are favored to win it again so we anticipate a tremendous struggle,” Merzon said of the talented Wildcats.
Oakdale finished second in the Valley Oak League last season, going 6-1 in league play and 12-2 overall. The two blemishes on the team’s record came at the hands of the same team, Central Catholic, first in the regular season and then in the playoffs.
Oakdale’s varsity team will have some holes to fill on both sides of the ball as 26 of its players from last season went on to graduate. Many of those newcomers got to see some action on the gridiron this weekend, as they matched up against Tracy and played through some hard-hitting offensive and defensive sets.
Year after year, Coach Merzon and his staff have always seemed to step up to the challenge to get their players ready for the grueling campaign. Returning players to the Mustangs roster include Zac Thomas, Blake Whiting, Cullen Bearden, Jace Krick, Vincent Albertoni, Michael Everett, Wes Leijten, Brandon Vierra, Nico Sarale and Matt Kjeldgaard. A few of the new faces on the team are Austin England, Cameron Cherry, Corey Hinojosa and Zack Campbell, amongst others who will likely see action in the season opener.
“The game this Friday night against Sonora is just step one for us, so I look forward to seeing which kids will establish themselves as guys this program and community can depend on,” Coach Merzon said of his players.
Kickoff for the varsity game is scheduled for 7 p.m. following the junior varsity game.
The junior varsity team hits the field on the road Friday night as well. Oakdale makes the trip up the hill to face off against the Sonora Wildcats. Returning as head coach of the Oakdale junior varsity boys is Matt Miranda. Kickoff is scheduled for 5 p.m.
Kicking off the 2016 football weekend to start the season will be the new look freshman team under new head coach Rod Long. Long makes his team debut at home as Oakdale hosts Sonora on Thursday night, Aug. 25. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. at The Corral.