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Ponies Defeat Wildcats In Coach Longs Debut
In pursuit of the ball carrier, Oakdale freshman Peyton Bradford, 33, takes the angle to make the tackle in Thursday night action at The Corral. Marg Jackson/The Leader

New year, new team. That is the life of any freshman sport. This year has not only seen new players on the OHS Ponies roster, but a new head coach in Rod Long. Long and his team hit the field on Thursday night for a home game against longtime rival Sonora to begin the 2016 season.

The Oakdale/Sonora rivalry began a century ago and The Corral was electric for the historic event. In front of a large crowd, the Ponies saddled up and played aggressive from the opening whistle as Oakdale knocked off Sonora 35-8.

The alert Ponies began the game with a heads up special teams play resulting in recovering a muffed opening kickoff by Sonora, giving Oakdale a short field to work with. Stepping in under center for the Ponies was quarterback Steven Morris who connected with Angel Penunuri from 25 yards out on fourth-and-three with 8:05 left in the first quarter to give Oakdale a 7-0 lead.

On the defensive side, Draven Rico made his presence felt throughout the evening. Rico recovered two fumbles on the night, including one late in the first quarter at his own 30 yard line to end a Sonora threat.

With a 7-0 lead, Oakdale’s rushing game took over in the second quarter. Peyton Bradford rushed up the middle on a one yard carry for a touchdown. Bradford carried the ball four times for 10 yards and the score in the first half.

The Ponies took a 14-0 lead at the half, and Coach Long made sure they did not lose their focus in the second half.

“We told them that we need to finish the game strong, there is a whole second half left to play. It is Sonora after all and they knew it was a big deal, so they did a great job staying focused,” Coach Long said.

His message was received as Oakdale played tough defense and smart offense in the second half. The Ponies extended their lead to 21-0 on a Morris touchdown pass to Bronson England from 13 yards out with nine seconds remaining in the third.

“We have a guy who can throw the ball, and some guys who can get open and get the ball down field as well. They were taking advantage of what the defense was giving them,” Long explained. “Sonora’s safeties were lining up on the line and that allowed us time to get the passing game going tonight. We got a few good looks but also missed a few opportunities tonight as well. That will improve throughout the season.”

Oakdale’s rushing attack proved to be too much for the visitors as Leonel Ayala scored on a seven yard run and capping the night with a big 43 yard run was Michael Echavarria to put away the Wildcats in the fourth quarter.

“This win feels great, the boys worked hard and I am proud of them. We made a lot of mistakes in the scrimmage but they turned things around tonight. We have a long way to go but I am proud of the way they corrected some things tonight,” Coach Long said.

Oakdale takes the home field once again on Thursday, Sept. 1 when they host Los Banos. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.