The days are shorter and the jackets are being worn; that means the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section boys soccer playoffs are upon us. The defending Section champion Oakdale Mustangs entered the Division III tournament as the number two seed in the 16-team single elimination bracket. This past week Oakdale soccer fans were treated to a pair of nail-biting, overtime thrillers that resulted in the Mustangs advancing to the semi-finals against the third ranked Patterson Tigers, tonight (Wednesday, Nov. 11) at OHS. Game time is slated for 6:30 p.m.
Oakdale hosted 15th seeded Mira Loma on Tuesday, night, Nov. 3. Mira Loma took an early 1-0 lead, which they held nearly 70 minutes. The Mustangs fired away at the Matadors goalkeeper throughout the evening. As time was running out on the Mustangs’ season, senior midfielder Michael Arauza ended the scoring drought on a sliding goal after a block by the Mira Loma keeper with less than two minutes left in regulation.
“Oh man, it took a whole team effort tonight. We played our hearts out, all of us tonight,” said Arauza. “We knew it was going down to the final seconds, we got lucky and took it to overtime.”
After the first OT period was scoreless, Oakdale took control in the second 10-minute extra frame and punched in two scores to cap off the rally. Unlikely hero Izzy Valero gave Oakdale their first lead of the match on a goal three minutes into the second frame of overtime. Valero’s goal was assisted by Collin Harrity.
“I felt emotional, I was almost in tears. I gave it all to my team tonight, thanks to God for everything, an emotional night for all of us,” said sophomore Valero, called up from the junior varsity ranks for the playoffs.
Moments later junior forward Wesley Allen scored the final goal of the night on an assist from Winslow Barrales to give Oakdale the 3-1 overtime victory.
“It’s an awesome feeling to win this tonight. We knew we had to win for the seniors; we could not let this be their last game,” said Allen. “To have Michael, a senior, score the tying goal near the end of regulation, it was amazing to see that.”
Two nights later the Mustangs returned to the home field and took on seventh seeded Rio Americano. In a knock-out, physical match that featured multiple yellow cards and vocal warnings from referees, Oakdale emerged as victors in another riveting classic. A scoreless first half saw both teams unable to punch one through, possession moving back and forth the entire half. Oakdale’s Nathan Richardson and Jose Solis anchored the posts, blocking a total of five attempts in the contest. Austin Neave, Zidane Saucedo and Abe Jauregui all had attempts at the stingy Rio Americano goalkeeper but were denied access to the net.
Players on both sides were frustrated by the netminders and the action intensified as the game wore on, with multiple midfield collisions and plenty of excitement for fans on both sides.
Battling through a scoreless regulation game, this time it was the Mustangs finding the net in the first OT period. Arauza spied Harrity upfield and got him the ball, Harrity scoring the eventual game winner eight minutes into extra time.
“We played hard the entire game. The game was physical and got out of hand but (we) could not play at that level, that’s not Oakdale soccer,” game two hero Harrity said of the brutal play throughout the night.
Oakdale has their sights set on claiming their second straight blue banner but must first get past Patterson tonight. Should the Mustangs advance, they will take on either top seeded league foe Weston Ranch or fourth seeded Vista Del Lago on Saturday, Nov. 14 for the Sac-Joaquin title.