It was not perfect football, but the Oakdale Mustangs dispatched El Dorado 63-33 to advance to the quarterfinals of the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs.
The Mustangs defense got things started for Oakdale on Friday night at The Corral when El Dorado fumbled the ball and an alert Erik Helms fell on the ball for the recovery on the Cougars’ opening drive. Oakdale took over at the El Dorado 30 yard line, and shortly thereafter, senior fullback Brad Aquino blasted his way up the middle for a 12-yard rushing score giving the Mustangs a 7-0 first quarter lead with 9:44 left. The next Cougars possession, Helms continued to wreak havoc on the offense when he wrapped up quarterback Aaron Golmitz on third and short forcing El Dorado to punt.
“We all had to do our job. That’s always the message from our coaches, is ‘Do your job’, that’s all I was trying to do,” said Helms. “As a unit we know we have to improve both on the (defensive) line and in our secondary if we want to advance further into the tournament.”
Two plays into the Mustangs second drive, senior Bobby DePuy used his speed and got past the Cougars front defensive line and blazed down field for a 31-yard rushing score doubling the Mustangs lead to 14-0 with 7:47 left in the first quarter. The Cougars offense roared back on their third possession of the game. Facing a third-and-one situation from the Oakdale 29, Golmitz picked up the first down on a quarterback keeper to keep their drive alive. Third downs continued to haunt Oakdale’s defense as the Cougars converted on a third-and-10 from the 27 on a 22-yard screen pass setting up first and goal from the Oakdale seven. The next play, El Dorado got on the board with a pass play that resulted in Cougars wide receiver Chris Volek stretching forward and into the end zone. Oakdale answered with a DePuy 17 yard rush to give Oakdale a 21-7 lead with 1:32 left in the high scoring first quarter. Oakdale ended the quarter on a Michael Everett sack as time expired.
El Dorado cut the lead down to 21-13 after Golmitz scored from one yard out with 5:56 left in the half. On the ensuing kickoff, senior Logan Hall silenced the visitor’s side bleachers on a 65-yard kickoff return for a score to give Oakdale a 28-13 lead. Later in the quarter, Aquino found the end zone for the second time on a three-yard rush with 16 seconds left in the half, building the Mustangs lead to 35-13.
Fired up after halftime, Oakdale scored on an Austin Burke 11-yard run just 26 seconds into the third quarter to give Oakdale a 42-13 advantage. After converting on a fake punt attempt, El Dorado bounced back with a 31-yard catch and run by Christian Shearer to cut the lead to 42-20 with 8:26 remaining in the third. DePuy and the Mustangs offense lit up the scoreboard again on an eight-yard rush giving Oakdale a 49-20 lead with 5:52 to play in the third. DePuy finished his night with nine carries for 160 yards and three touchdowns.
“We had to get after them, after last week’s heartbreaker we were focused and ready to roll tonight,” said DePuy.
Helms got to the quarterback for the second time on first down from the Oakdale 28 late in the third quarter. However, two plays later, El Dorado scored on a 14-yard pass play to cut the Mustangs lead to 49-26 after a missed two-point conversion attempt with 2:51 left in the third quarter. With seven seconds left in the third, Aquino plowed his way into the end zone from 8 yards out, giving Oakdale a 56-26 lead.
Keeping the scoreboard operator busy, El Dorado scored less than five minutes into the fourth quarter on a nine-yard screen pass reducing the Mustangs lead to 56-33 with 7:59 remaining in the high scoring affair. Putting the final nail in the Cougars coffin was Aquino from 10 yards out with 6:35 left to play for the final score of the evening. Aquino’s impressive night ended with 178 yards rushing on 20 carries. Aquino scored a total of four touchdowns, and also had the only Mustangs reception on a nine-yard catch and run.
“We had to get back on the horse. It was a long week for a lot of us and we couldn’t wait to play again,” Mustangs head coach Trent Merzon said about taking the field seven days after falling to Central Catholic. “Some good things happened tonight, and some bad things happened tonight but bottom line is we are moving on.”
But, the coach added, the effort has to be better from this point forward.
“If we don’t improve on defense next Friday night, our season is over. Defensively, we couldn’t stop anything,” he said about the match up against El Dorado.
Oakdale will host Benicia on Friday night, Nov. 20 with kickoff scheduled for 7 p.m. Benicia is the tenth ranked team in the bracket and are coming off a 32-28 upset victory over Vista del Lago this past Saturday. Benicia won the Solano County Athletic Conference and has an overall record of 8-3.