For the last four years, Rod Long has been on staff at Oakdale High School as a special education teacher. This year, Long will be doing some more teaching after hours on campus, not in a classroom, but on the football field as the new head coach for the Oakdale freshman football team.
“It was exciting. To have Merz (varsity head coach Trent Merzon) pick you, that means he trusts you and is putting trust in me and my staff to help mold them (players) for the next level of play,”
Although this is his first season on the Oakdale football staff, this is not Long’s first time on the sidelines. For nearly three decades, he has coached football in some capacity, including a 12-year stint for Modesto High School.
“I don’t want to change things up too much. We have a system in place for this team. The most important thing (outside of their safety) is to prepare these young guys for the next level, whether that is junior varsity or varsity with Merzon,” Coach Long said of his philosophy for the team. “We want our team to believe in one another, fight for one another and become strong as a unit. That’s all we as coaches can ask of the players.”
Even with a long coaching history, Long will be faced with the challenges of coaching a young group that doesn’t have any high school football experience.
“It is a great spot, and kind of a weird spot at the same time. I am blessed to have the kids from the Stampede program come in. Oakdale Stampede does a great job with them,” noted Long. “We also have kids who never touched a football or pair of pads before come out and try out, which we encourage. Like I said, we want these guys ready for that next level. A lot of these guys have played with each other and grew up together so they are familiar with each other, so that helps me out as a coach.”
Accompanying Coach Long on the sidelines this season will be his staff that includes; Cody Bento (line coach); Chris Lawrence (defensive coordinator) and Bobby Monges (running back/defensive backs coach).
“We have a tremendous group of coaches and teachers on our staff. Bento comes from Stampede so he has the familiarity with the guys. Monges is a staff member here at the school and has his hands in Mustang athletics around campus,” said Long. “Lawrence is the former varsity coach at Waterford so he brings experience and toughness to the table.”
Oakdale opens up their season with a home game against Sonora on Thursday, Aug. 25 at The Corral with kickoff scheduled for 6 p.m.