Oakdale punched its ticket for the 2014 Division III CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Championship game after dismantling 10th seeded Rio Linda 41-14 Friday night, Nov. 28.
The post-Thanksgiving crowd filled the stands on both sides of the field, but it was the host Mustangs who thrived Friday night behind their three-headed backfield and impressive defense.
Running back Darus Nelson found the end zone twice in the first quarter to give Oakdale a 14-0 lead after one quarter of play. Nelson finished the evening with 16 carries for 94 yards and two touchdowns.
“Big shout out to my offensive line. They do all the work for us backs each week and they’re a big part of our season’s success,” said Nelson.
Not to be outdone, the Mustang attack also featured stalwarts Frankie Trent and Brock Whiting.
Oakdale pulled away in the second quarter as Trent and Whiting each found the end zone, highlighted by a down-the-sideline 54-yard rushing score from Whiting and two rushing touchdowns from Trent to give the Mustangs a 33-6 lead at the half.
Senior Landen Ichord and the defense gave the Knights offense trouble throughout the evening, but it was with exactly three minutes remaining in the third, that Ichord stripped the ball out of the hands of the Rio Linda running back, and then recovered the fumble.
“We played as a team tonight, like we have all season, and we will play as a team next week for the championship,” Ichord said. “Coach (Trent) Merzon has been here before and he has brought us all together as a team.”
Ichord also led the team in tackles with seven on the night, as the visiting Knights were never really able to get their offense in gear, sending several punts the Mustangs’ way.
Trent and Whiting continued to punish the Knights in the second half, as Trent scored from 18 yards out in the third quarter. The Oakdale offense for the night was capped off by quarterback Adam Olsen finding Whiting in the flat for a successful 2-point conversion. It was the only score of the quarter and it gave Oakdale a commanding 41-6 advantage.
Rio Linda would score the only points of the fourth quarter, with a late four yard TD run. It gave their fans something to cheer about, but was too little, too late against the third-seeded Mustangs.
Standing in the way of a Section banner for Oakdale, the top seeded Inderkum Tigers of Sacramento. Inderkum made its way through the playoffs with a 60-8 win over No. 16 Valley on Nov. 14, upended ninth seeded Benicia 49-14 on Nov. 21 before defeating fifth seeded Sacramento 51-34 on Friday night. Oakdale was a 50-8 winner over No. 14 Pacheco in the Nov. 14 opening round and dispatched sixth seeded Vista del Lago, 42-14, on Nov. 21 before hosting and defeating Rio Linda on Friday.
Inderkum has won 11 straight games heading into the showdown at Lincoln High School.
“Real proud of our kids to do it in this venue, in front of this community and in front of current and former alumni; it’s a special night,” head coach Trent Merzon said at the conclusion of Friday’s victory, pleased with both the effort and the outcome. “This team has played hard, not just tonight but all season.”
As far as facing off with the best, Merzon knows they need to be prepared.
“Inderkum is a tough opponent. We have some work to do between now and Saturday,” he said.
Lincoln High School in Stockton is at 6844 Alexandria Place. Admission for the Section championship game is $12 for adults, $8 for students and seniors. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 6.