The theme re-emerged when Oakdale High’s varsity football team charged into The Corral during Friday’s Homecoming night, then bloomed to spectacular exuberance by the way they departed it as 54-0 victors over Weston Ranch.
The Mustangs are on the verge of something special.
Oakdale jumped all over the Cougars with a seven touchdown lead at the half, delivered another brilliant defensive performance against a spread offense and came one step closer to greatness with two weeks remaining in the Valley Oak League schedule.
The Mustangs can clinch their sixth straight conference championship and ninth title in 11 seasons by besting host Manteca on Friday at Guss Schmiedt Field.
“It’s just a great honor and opportunity for our kids to win a title on the road,” Oakdale coach Trent Merzon said. “To see a great coaching staff and one of the top programs in the area, it’s why you coach and why you play football here.”
The conference title won’t be the only thing Merzon snares if Oakdale captures success. A win will also see Merzon achieve a 124-31-1 career record across his 13 years with the program. It will surpass the previous school record of wins by longtime Mustang coach Dale Clipper (123-72-8), who coached Merzon at OHS.
For Merzon and the two assistants who have been with him for all 13 years (Tim Meyer and Hondo Arpoika) it’s an undeniable measure of their success — though Merzon said the credit falls well beyond the reach of his coaching staff.
“So many people are involved in what goes into this,” Merzon said. “Obviously Tim and Hondo have been with me for 13 years and they work so hard. Our kids also work so hard and we have an unbelievable administrative support system.
“It’s measure of our longevity and we are proud of it.”
Oakdale (7-1 overall, 5-0 VOL) is currently 13th on the win-totals list for Sac Joaquin Section teams from divisions I-IV. The Mustangs currently project as the No. 2 team in the Division III bracket behind an unbeaten Placer program from the tough Pioneer Valley League.
Oakdale stayed in the conversation for a top D-III seed by cruising past Weston Ranch. The win was aided by 337 offensive yards and the feat of holding the Cougars to just 52 yards. Oakdale’s first team defense held Weston Ranch to (-)35 yards of rushing in the first half, while defenders sacked Cougar quarterback Joe Tillman twice and landed an interception (Nik Garza). Bastian Jimenez led Oakdale with eight tackles.
Oakdale rolled to 202 rushing yards from nine different ball carriers and watched quarterbacks Spencer Thomas (3 for 3, 72 yards) and Adam Olsen (2 for 63, 63 yards) combine for 135 yards through the air.
“I thought we were phenomenal on both sides of the ball,” coach Merzon said. “It all starts up front with the offensive line and the defensive line.
“When we had the opportunity to make a play, we made a play.”
Thomas hit Nikk Ryan on an 18 yard touchdown pass to put Oakdale on the board, then connected with Marcus Northcutt (107 total yards) to put Oakdale up 13-0 midway through the first quarter. Northcutt made it a three-score game with a nine yard touchdown run with 1 minute, 27 seconds to play in the period. When a Garza interception gave Ryan opportunity for a 14 yard touchdown jaunt just 18 seconds later, Weston Ranch was staring at 27-0 deficit with three quarters to play.
Olsen, Ryan and Northcutt would run for second quarter scores to put the game out of reach. DeWayne Finney’s magnificent punt return set up Oakdale’s second team offense for the first Mustang possession of the second half at the Weston Ranch 30. Three plays later Josh Watts bullied in from 16 yards out and the Cougars submitted to a running clock with 8:34 to play in the third quarter.
Oakdale reserves would rally to finish the game with sharp defense, erupting when a Garrett Brewer sack ended the final Weston Ranch drive.
Manteca was 27 miles away delivering a similar performance with a 56-0 rout of host Lathrop. The Buffaloes showcased a balanced offense with 190 yards passing and rushing on the strength of 34 carries and a 10 for 13 stanza from two quarterbacks.
Manteca’s leading rusher, Eddie Smith, needed only eight touches in the win. He’s accumulated just under 1,000 yards this year, likely expecting to reach the mark against Oakdale on Friday.
“We’ve turned the page already; and this was a good win, but we’re focused on Oakdale already,” Smith told the Leader’s sister paper, the Manteca Bulletin afterwards. “We’ll come out Monday and get healthy and watch film. We know what to expect from (Oakdale) and we know they’re a tough team, but we’ll be ready.”
The anticipation is mutual.
“I’m really excited,” Thomas said after the Weston Ranch win. “It’s the championship game.”
Oakdale struggled to capitalize on successful drives and allowed Weston Ranch to escape with a 21-7 victory. Frankie Trent ran for a second half touchdown to punctuate a 17-carry, 134-yard performance. Kevin Corral added 12 touches for 139 yards in the loss.
“We made a couple mistakes and got stopped three times on fourth down,” Oakdale coach Dave Hill said. “That has not happened all year.”
Oakdale (3-2) can get back on track by besting a Manteca team that sits 4-0-1 in the conference.
Oakdale will look to keep their unbeaten streak alive in a big frosh showdown with a Manteca team that sits 8-0 on the year. Oakdale stayed perfect by besting Weston Ranch 41-14. Isaac Moreno connected with Bobby DePuy on a 50 yard touchdown pass, later finding Darus Nelson open for a five yard score. Nelson ran for touchdowns of 15 and five yards while Broderick Medrano bolted in from five yards out.