Summer sports and the start of a new school year meant plenty of action for the Leader’s sports section.
Following is the completion to the Year-In-Review summary of the most newsworthy sports moments of 2011, highlighting impressive Oakdale High School, youth and professional performances as local athletes engaged in quests for greatness in the final six months of last year.
Oakdale High graduate Devin Combs accepted a full-ride football scholarship to the University of Nevada, Reno in early July. The standout quarterback led Oakdale to a Sac-Joaquin Section title in 2007, took two years off, and then led Modesto Junior College to an 8-3 season and Graffiti Bowl Title in the fall of 2010. His efforts drew the attention of Nevada, who had already recruited Combs as an Oakdale High senior in 2007-08. When Nevada made their offer, Combs didn’t hesitate.
In all, 1,395 entries were made into 13 competing events at the National High School Rodeo Finals in Gillette, Wyoming from July 17 to 23. Despite being surrounded by the top young talents in the nation, Oakdale High students Colton Farquer and Katelin New impressed with top-10 finishes in their respective events.
The Oakdale Water Polo Club and SOAK (Sonora/Oakdale) teams exploded to record numbers this summer, and saw an unexpected 18-deep roster of 12-and-under coed players for their host SOAK Tournament. In all, six SOAK teams joined the fray of 59 teams and 81 games across four venues on Saturday and Sunday last week. For three of those teams, it was one more chance to sharpen some skills just a few weeks before entry in the 2011 Junior Olympics in Orange County.
Over 70 percent of Oakdale Gators youth swimmers saw improved times and 40 percent bested personal records in two or more events at the Mid Valley Swim League Championships on July 16 at the Oakdale Aquatic Center.
Oakdale High senior Justina Keith discovered a fracture in her spine just weeks before an expected trip to the Junior Olympics over the summer, but returned to the volleyball court 12 weeks later in triumphant fashion. She delivered kills and digs as a big part of Oakdale’s varsity volleyball lineup in her first extended action of the 2011 campaign during Oakdale’s season opener on Aug. 31.
Some thrilling and aggressive play from Oakdale High girls water polo stars Shelby Stender and Cassie Lee propelled the under-16 Sonora/Oakdale (SOAK) Water Polo Club to a 19th place finish among 36 teams at the Swim Outlet Junior Olympics in Orange County in early August.
A wave of personal bests, ‘A’ time standards, Junior Olympic qualifications and even Far Western nods were awarded to swimmers of the Oakdale Aquatics Club during the U.S.A. Swim Tuolumne Aquatics meet in Sonora from Aug. 5 to 7. After the ripples settled, Oakdale had impressed to a second place team finish among all competing programs.
Nine-year-old Sierra View Elementary fourth grader, Billy-Bob Chapin, was the Western Regional Bull Riding Association runner-up champion during the summer season, which qualified him to the Youth Bull Riding World Finals in Abilene, Texas in early August. It’s at this event where Billy-Bob landed one of the best rides of his career to place 23rd among 58 of the best young calf riders in the world. Competitors from Mexico, Canada and across the United States were all present.
Oakdale High varsity quarterback Spencer Thomas lit up the night sky with precise strikes to five different receivers, and led Oakdale’s football team to a 33-7 victory over Turlock on Sept. 2 at The Corral. A week later, Oakdale walked through upstart Aptos High with a triumphant 55-21 victory. Oakdale linebacker Bastian Jimenez nabbed a fourth quarter fumble and rumbled 55 yards to pay dirt during a 55-21 gorging of the visiting Rancho Cotate Cougars on Sept. 16. A week later, Oakdale punched in five unanswered scores to put Sierra to sleep with a 45-14 final score at The Corral. On the final day of the month, Oakdale ignored a bizarre turn of events to blast Kimball 44-14 in Tracy.
Fifteen freshmen and sophomores from The California School for the Deaf relayed coaching instruction, strategy and even exuberance via sign language on Sept. 8 in a competitive showdown with Oakdale’s powerful freshman program. Oakdale won the game 34-6, but CSD showed impressive bursts of athleticism despite a small number of participants and the disability of hearing impairment.
Savannah Stender tallied an incredible 26 goals during eight contests to start 2011. She landed 15 scores against top-tier defenders during the Central Valley Showdown in Clovis and added four more during a 12-10 overtime loss to visiting Tokay on Sept. 15.
Two weeks into the Valley Oak League schedule, Oakdale High’s girls tennis team sported a spotless record with four wins over conference foes. They dropped Lathrop in an 8-1 landslide on Sept. 15. The Oakdale varsity boys water polo team landed a 17-0 shutout of Pacheco after multiple scores from six different Mustang players.
The only thing that shined brighter than brand new Mustang volleyball jerseys during the Sept. 24 Oakdale Varsity Tournament was the play of 12 girls on the varsity roster. Oakdale delivered sharp performances across a 5-1 stanza of matches, ultimately dropping a close championship contest to the same Pitman team that defeated Oakdale to start the 2011 campaign.
Oakdale underclassman sensation, Mabel Wong, beat every league foe by four or more strokes throughout 12 nine-hole matches, and capped her season with the top score at Monday’s VOL Championships at the Brookside Country Club in Stockton. The VOL MVP Wong shot a spectacular 74 across 18 difficult holes, and was a big part of Oakdale’s 502 team score, which allowed them to finish second overall and landed Oakdale tied with Sonora for second place in the league standings.
‘Far from perfect’ was the theme of Oakdale High’s varsity football performance during a 63-14 shellacking of Lathrop on Homecoming night in front of a standing-room only crowd inside The Corral. Oakdale followed up convincing lower level victories with a 50-14 rout of host East Union on Friday for a three-game sweep of the Lancers on Oct. 13. A week later, Oakdale’s varsity team overcame a quiet first quarter with a balanced offensive attack to put the finishing touches on a complete program sweep of Weston Ranch. Between varsity, junior varsity and freshman scores, the Mustangs outscored the Cougars by a collective 135-36 score. Oakdale players saw a 49-14 triumph over the visiting Manteca Buffaloes in front of around 6,000 fans at The Corral on Oct. 27.
Oakdale’s volleyball freshmen beat a tough Pitman team in consecutive games to win title honors in the Mustang Freshman Carmichael Tournament at Oakdale High. The varsity team dropped a key contest to Sonora, but won every other league game and match.
Two days after a 2-1 loss to Sonora dropped Oakdale’s position in the Valley Oak League varsity soccer standings on Oct. 3, the Mustangs fired back with an impressive 3-1 win over previously unbeaten Sierra to stay within range of a top-3 VOL finish on Oct. 5.
In Water Polo, Oakdale closed the month when the Oakdale boys won 14-4 over Sonora, and watched the Oakdale girls play to a 14-4 victory during the final Valley Foothill Conference match of the season. Both teams won undefeated league championships.
Oakdale MMA Fighter Michael McDonald waited nearly six months for his third Ultimate Fighting Championship bout, but took only 56 seconds to finish it in front of a live national television audience on Nov. 19. McDonald (14-1) battered previously unbeaten Alex Soto (6-1) against the cage until he was unconscious during ‘UFC Prelims Live’ on SPIKE during the UFC 139 card at the HP Pavilion in San Jose. The finish drew a huge ovation from a crowd over 13,000 and impressed UFC president Dana White enough to garner McDonald a $70,000 ‘Knockout of the Night” bonus for his effort.
After a win over Sonora closed VOL play with a spotless record, Oakdale’s football team saw consecutive wins over Center, Vista del Lago and Casa Roble propel the team to a SJS championship showdown with Nationally ranked Del Oro.
Oakdale’s girls water polo team reached the SJS title game for the first time in school history, and knocked off an SJS legend along the way. The Mustangs dropped No. 1 seed Rio Americano 4-2 in overtime to end Rio Americano’s streak of nine consecutive SJS championships. Then Oakdale slipped 10-7 to Del Oro in the playoff finale. The Oakdale boys made the SJS semifinals, but fell to eventual champion, Rio Americano.
Trailing 20-8 in the first quarter of the CenCal Super Bowl, the Oakdale Stampede had plenty of opportunities to reflect on a strong season and graciously hand the Modesto Broncos the varsity youth football crown. Or so the Broncos hoped. Oakdale exploded for an 18-0 second quarter and broke away from a fourth quarter deadlock to claim a 44-34 victory at Atwater High. The win culminated a perfect 13-0 season and granted the Stampede it’s first ever CenCal Super Bowl victory at any level. Doing it on head coach Jason Rowe’s 40th birthday made it even more special for the program.
After losing a rough first game in the semifinals of the section volleyball playoffs, Oakdale erupted for a 25-22 third game win and even took a 24-21 lead in game four, but allowed late Hawks kills to spell a 26-24 Christian Brothers win and 3-1 playoff victory.
Oakdale senior Kaila Olson signed a letter of intent on Nov. 16 to play softball at UC Davis on a partial scholarship.
A yearlong Oakdale High gridiron effort that started with early morning workouts just a few days after last year’s section finals defeat continued with 14 straight Friday night football games this fall. Thirteen of them were wins to set a school record and propelled the Mustangs to a Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championship rematch with Del Oro, but the 14th left the team painfully short of its goal. On Dec. 2, Oakdale (13-1) fell 21-7 to the same Del Oro program (13-1) that beat them 21-0 a year ago. With five likely starters expected to miss the mat this season and another three football players still awaiting service to the active roster, Oakdale High’s rag-tag collection of varsity wrestlers wasn’t expected to continue the tradition of dominating their host tournament to open the season. Oakdale wrestlers landed nine trips to the gold medal match, six tournament titles and 14 total top-six medals across 14 weight classes at the 36th Annual James Riddle Classic on Dec. 10 at OHS.
Oakdale’s boys basketball team ousted Central Valley in a 60-45 victory on Dec. 7 after a 20-point, 11-rebound performance from Justin Martinez. Nathan Van Ryn tallied 10 points while Vince Fauria added eight with six assists.
A last-moment three-pointer gave Downey High’s varsity girls basketball team brief hope for a late comeback, but Oakdale maintained the final possession for a 40-37 victory over the host Knights Dec. 16.
With coaches, family and friends in attendance, Oakdale High seniors and volleyball standouts McKenzie Willet and Justina Keith signed their names to written commitments on Dec. 11 to attend the University of California, Merced on partial volleyball scholarships.