With the Valley Oak League shaping up to be a three horse race (Sierra, Oakdale and Central Catholic) this late in the season, fans of both Oakdale and Sierra packed the bleachers at Sierra High School’s “The Den” Friday night, Oct. 17 to see the Timberwolves host the Mustangs in a battle of the unbeatens. The fans were treated to a nailbiter that saw the home team escape with a 31-20 victory.
The Mustangs (6-1, 3-1) fell victim to the Timberwolves (7-0, 4-0) high powered offense as Sierra jumped out to an early 7-0 lead, and doubled it to 14-0 as the first quarter came to a close. Sierra wasn’t through yet, as they expanded their lead to 21-0 after a 43-yard rushing touchdown by Mark Paule Jr. with 6:03 remaining in the first half.
Facing their largest deficit of the season, Oakdale did what they do best and ran the ball effectively. Frankie Trent, coming off a huge performance at Levi’s Stadium, powered his way to a 3-yard rushing touchdown to put Oakdale on the board with 4:27 remaining in the first half. The Mustangs’ defense then forced the Timberwolves to punt, and the ball sailed into the hands of Darus Nelson at the 15-yard line, who broke down the sideline. When a group of Timberwolves surrounded Nelson and attempted to force the junior out of bounds, Nelson turned up field and cranked up the burners, the speedy Nelson finding his way across the goal line to complete the 85 yard punt return score, to bring Oakdale within a single score with 2:21 remaining in the half.
“I knew where I was going with it, seen my blockers upfront and followed through,” said Nelson on the play that got both the Mustang sidelines and the crowd jumping and on their feet.
Second half action saw Oakdale behind 24-14 but the team kept its composure and Trent found the end zone for the second time on a 1-yard plunge with 1:08 left in the third quarter to bring the lead down to 24-20. Trent finished with 127 rushing yards and two scores on 17 carries.
The drama would continue to unfold throughout the fourth quarter. Oakdale looked to take its first lead of the evening with 5:52 left to play. On fourth and nine from the Timberwolves 18, quarterback Adam Olsen’s pass to the end zone fell incomplete and Sierra would take over on downs. With time running out, Sierra faced a fourth and one from their own 27 and 3:42 left on the clock, the Timberwolves converted on a 3-yard run from Paule Jr. to retain possession and keep the time moving. The next play Paule Jr. made the Mustangs pay as he turned up field for a 66 yard rush before being taken down by senior Tyler Flores at the Mustangs 3-yard line. Sierra put the final nail in the coffin with a touchdown with 2:09 left.
“Sierra made big plays, early and throughout the course of the game, and that’s how you win big football games. Tip your hat to them; they are a very good team and well coached. Tonight they made the plays when they needed to,” said Coach Trent Merzon after the tough road loss.
Oakdale looks to bounce back this Friday night when they host the Kimball Jaguars (1-6, 0-4).
Every game is critical as the Mustangs look to finish strong and get themselves in a good position for the playoffs. Now with a loss on the record, they need to regroup and prepare for a Kimball team that will come in hungry and anxious to take down a powerhouse.