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MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR CAPTAIN CLUTCH Machado Led Elite 2013 Field Of Athletes
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A terrific senior athlete and incredible clutch performer, Eddie Machado, is the 2013 Oakdale Leader Male Athlete of the Year. IKE DODSON/THE LEADER

If you play chess with 2013 Oakdale High graduate Eddie Machado, you had better not put him in check.

When pressure looms and success is needed most, Machado finds perplexing strength within his 5 foot, 9 inch, 165-pound frame to take his game to a whole new level.

He’s 75 percent Portuguese, 25 percent French and 100 percent clutch.

“I think Eddie was so clutch because he was a program guy that just embraced every opportunity he was given,” Oakdale football coach Trent Merzon said. “He just kept getting better and better, but was very grounded.”

Machado’s stunning performance in the football postseason, coupled by a heroic stanza of innings in the baseball playoffs, separated the curly-haired talent from a host of spectacular Mustang competitors, ultimately leading to his selection as the 2013 Oakdale Leader Male Athlete of the Year.

As a pitcher, Machado allowed only one run in 17 innings of the Division IV Sac-Joaquin Section baseball playoffs. As a defensive back and utility player, Machado dazzled football fans with three interceptions and two touchdowns in a span of two weeks that encompassed wins in the SJS finals and NorCal State Championships.

No one did it better.

And consider the competition. Quarterback Spencer Thomas led the varsity football program to a third straight trip to the section finals, was one of the top scorers on the basketball team and even collected a handful of track and field accolades. Hondo Arpoika won five section titles this year between football, wrestling and baseball, and was named the 40th Annual Central California Lions All-Star Classic defensive MVP and Most Inspirational Player for the game-winning South squad on June 15.

Thomas and Arpoika easily had more successful accumulative careers, but Machado’s senior brilliance was unmatched.

“When Eddie was a freshman, he didn’t even start on the freshman football team,” Merzon said. “For him to go from a non-starting athlete to the Athlete of the Year speaks volumes about his character and intestinal fortitude.

“I am so proud of Eddie. He was just phenomenal this year.”

Machado was a starter on the junior varsity baseball team as a freshman, but experienced some growing pains as a bench player during frosh football games.

“After not starting, I never wanted to sit again,” Machado said. “I started working out (with trainer and former OHS coach Pablo Hernandez), and when coach Merzon pulled five sophomores up to varsity a year later, it gave me a chance to start on JV.”

Machado made the most of his opportunity with a role in Oakdale’s JV defensive backfield and an appearance behind center as Mustang quarterback. He showed continued progression his junior year and as a senior to stay in the starting lineup, but didn’t erupt into the limelight until the 2012-13 playoffs.

With the wisdom of coaches Hondo Arpoika Sr. and Tim Meyer fresh in his mind, Machado watched Vista del Lago sophomore quarterback Matt Jimison with the utmost scrutiny during the opening moments of the SJS Division III Championships.

When Jimison fired his second pass of the game toward the Oakdale sideline, Machado broke in front of the waiting receiver for an interception and rumbled 27 yards to a 6-0 Oakdale lead.

“Since (Jimison) was young, he would just stare at the receiver he was going to throw to,” Machado said. “The interception kind of jump-started us, and it was pretty cool.

“My emotions were flowing after that, because it was my first high school touchdown. I had thrown some in (on the JV team), but I had never run one in before.”

It wouldn’t be his last.

A week later, in a unique offensive formation that split the defensive player out wide on offense, Machado hauled in the first reception of his career for a touchdown pass against Clayton Valley in the NorCal Championships.

He would also intercept Clayton Valley quarterback Michael Protheroe twice to deliver a heroic defensive effort against a favored Eagles team that had previously outscored opponents 665-228.

“Going into that game, win or lose we were going to be happy with our season,” Machado said. “I think that made us more relaxed and helped us become the first team in school history to go to state.

“The only way to get it done was to not quit.”

Less than three months later, Machado returned to the baseball program for a shot at aiding coach Arpoika’s quest for a fourth-straight section title in his final season.

Despite missing the prestige of a high-level commitment like his USC-bound teammate Bryce Dyrda, Machado emerged as the No. 1 starter on the team and delivered one of the best seasons on the mound in school history. In 13 appearances and 64.1 innings, Machado landed a shocking .87 earned run average with an 8-0 win/loss stanza, 89 strikeouts and only 26 walks surrendered.

He opened the playoffs with a complete game no-hitter during a 3-0 win over Cosumnes Oaks, added a five-inning shutout victory against Vista del Lago in the semifinals, and pitched five scoreless innings of Oakdale’s 4-1 win over Central Catholic in the SJS banner game.

“It was sweet to win another baseball section title, especially during coach Arpoika’s last year,” Machado said. “My brother (Joey Machado) had also won a section title as a senior and I wanted to do everything like he did.”

Of teammates with 30 or more at-bats, Eddie Machado was fourth in batting average, fourth in runs, third in hits, third in RBIs and fourth in runs. As good as he was in football, he was even better in baseball. His steel nerves on the hill during tense playoff situations were inspirational.

“After that state game for football, I never had nerves bother me again,” Machado said. “During the section title game my parents and my brother were more nervous than I was.”

His brother was a frequent sighting during football and baseball games this year, despite his own enrollment at California State University, Stanislaus, where he plays baseball.

It’s the same program the younger Machado has accepted a walk-on position for. Since big brother Joey is a catcher, Eddie will throw to his brother for the first time in competition baseball.

“Eddie and Joey have a great relationship and I know they want to play college baseball together,” Merzon said. “I think they, along with their parents, are great role models for our community.”