Friday night football is back at The Corral as the Mustangs hosted longtime rivals, the Sonora Wildcats in the 2014 season opener. Even though Sonora is no longer in the Valley Oak League, the rivalry between the two schools went on for 91 years in league play and still holds up as a big rivalry in California.
The varsity Mustangs fed off three key elements to help them to a 28-14 victory. Number one, both the freshman team and junior varsity took care of business as the freshmen won 33-6 Thursday night, and the JV squad manhandled Sonora earlier Friday night with a lopsided 41-18 victory. Number two, the hometown support from the Mustang faithful. The Corral was full to overflowing, the fans filling not only the bleachers but the aisles as well as lining the track fence. The crowd was in it from the very beginning wearing their Mustangs shirts, hats, rattling their cowbells, holding up their signs and some even wearing face paint. After feeding off both the frosh and JV momentum and the crowd noise, the varsity boys were responsible for key number three; they followed their game plan flawlessly.
Sonora opened the game from their own 20 yard line, but would go three and out after a sack by Oakdale’s Landen Ichord on Sonora quarterback Billy Kiriluk to force the punt.
Feeding off their aggressive defense, the high powered Mustang offense took the field for their second drive of the game and it didn’t take long for them to capitalize on their great field position set up by stellar defense and flashy special teams. Starting from the Sonora 38 yard line, the Mustangs ran the ball for a one yard gain. The next play, quarterback Adam Olsen found his sure handed wide receiver Logan Hall for a 37 yard touchdown strike as Hall broke away from the defender down the sideline, giving Oakdale a 7-0 lead with 5:39 remaining in the first quarter.
After another great outing by the Mustang defense, Olsen and the offense took the field again from their own 13 yard line. Olsen handed the ball off to running back Frankie Trent, who busted his way through the Wildcats defense and gained 54 yards on the carry. Two plays later, Olsen found his other running back, Brock Whiting down field for a 33 yard touchdown pass, doubling the lead to 14-0 with 54 seconds remaining in the opening quarter.
Later in the second quarter, Sonora had the ball and was marching down the field until Oakdale’s Tyler Flores picked off Kiriluk at midfield. The Mustangs expanded the lead to 21-0 as Whiting continued his big night with a 15-yard touchdown run with 11:25 left in the half. Oakdale looked to expand their lead before halftime as they were back in the red but the drive was halted by an interception by Sonora’s safety Johnny Tahara at the one yard line with 1:18 left.
Oakdale didn’t waste any time in the second half as the team began their drive at their own 33 yard line. On third and five, Whiting continued to shred the Sonora defense as he ran 62 yards to paydirt for his third overall touchdown of the night, giving Oakdale a commanding 28-0 lead.
Sonora would get on the board with a pair of touchdowns in the second half but it was too late for the Wildcats as Oakdale held on for the victory.
“Early in the game we executed our game plan that coach laid out for us. He is a great coach. Sonora is a tough team and we knew that they would come out in the second half and be competitive,” Whiting said. “We knew that we had to step on their throats and not let them breathe. After their second touchdown, we closed it out.”
Olsen also spoke on the team’s 14-point victory.
“Sonora was keying in the run so we took it to them in the air when given the opportunity,” the signal caller said. “They had eight in the box at times so we aired it out. I made mistakes, and know that I need to improve in some areas. Our O-line did a great job tonight.”
Head coach Merzon shared his thoughts as well: “Kind of a weird game, we overcame 13 penalties, we jumped out to a 28-0 lead and then things started to slip away from us. Sonora is a great team, probably going to be league champs in the Mother Lode.”
The Mustangs (1-0) host the Turlock Bulldogs (1-0) who are coming off a 25-20 victory over Enochs, on Friday night with the JV game beginning at 5 p.m. and varsity set to kick off at 7 p.m.