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Mustangs Gain Confidence In Full Contact Camp
Oakdale High junior Zach Abbot gets to the outside during one of several Mustang mini-scrimmages during workouts in a full-contact camp hosted by Modesto Junior College. - photo by JAGADA CHAMBERS/THE LEADER
Day two was weak.
And that’s just stating facts, so the Mustangs were forced to dig into a reserve tank that only true champions have and they found it. Oakdale closed out a 3-day full-contact football camp hosted by Modesto Junior College with an impressive showing giving the two-time defending Valley Oak League champions something to build on through the summer months.
“We come to this team camp because of the teams that are here,” Oakdale head coach Trent Merzon said. “We want to see good football teams here. We were a league champion; we were here, Hilmar’s a Section champion, they were here, Pitman was 8-2 they were here, and Johansen was a league champion they were here.
“We want to come here and face great teams and face adversity.”
The Mustangs adversity seemingly was self-inflicted day two of the camp when the squad left its effort and tenacity in Oakdale and got a rude awakening from some of the other ball clubs, mainly a tough-talking team out of Atwater.
“We told them after day two life is like football and you’re going to face adversity and I don’t think we responded to adversity very well,” Merzon said. “Things didn’t go our way and we didn’t do anything to change it.
“We were waiting for somebody to change our fate instead of us changing our fate.”
When the situation arose for Oakdale to make the necessary adjustments, call on their leadership, and take control of their actions, that is exactly how the squad responded. Their effort on the camp’s final day was something that was pleasing to the entire coaching staff.
“They definitely made a huge turnaround from yesterday to today,” defensive coordinator Hondo Arpoika said. “When adversity struck they didn’t hang their heads. Like coach (Greg) Ratto always says, you can either pout about it or face it and sock it back in the mouth.
“And they did a good job of that (Thursday).”
Oakdale’s effort was never more visible than during the camp’s final drill, which brought all the teams to the main field for a ten-yard fight style goal line situation. Four plays to make the touchdown or put together a stop. Each team filtered the sideline anxiously awaiting their shot at taking center stage.
The roars were deafening and it was classic gridiron style football, pleasing to all in attendance. Oakdale put together a quality showing, yet the ever-so-demanding Mustang head coach knows that effort cannot be controlled by a switch.
“The intensity of the goal lines, with everybody in the camp watching,” Merzon said. “It is an intense situation, but we’re trying to get our kids to a level in football where we don’t get more intense or less intense on the goal line. We need to get that level of intensity all the time.
“And as intense as that was it still doesn’t match 6,000 people at the Corral.”
The Mustangs’ home-schedule is a fundraisers dream with preseason contests scheduled against Turlock, Novato and postseason foe Whitney not to mention the highly anticipated scrimmage against Central Catholic September 4.
Oakdale closed out the camp in good fashion, so it will be up to the team’s individuals to build on a quality effort.