The prestige of Oakdale High’s football program is bolstered every season by the conference and postseason success each group of athletes collectively share and the character each athlete displays.
The journey culminates at the end of the year, but it begins just moments after the previous season ends. For the 2012-13 Mustangs, the early stages of that journey took them to a contact football camp at Downey High on July 10 and 11.
There, Oakdale athletes were challenged by a barrage of practices and the competition of 7 on 7 and full-action scrimmages against the likes of Division I Downey and Enochs from the Modesto Metro Conference.
“Our kids learned a lot, and know they will need to show up every single day and play, because when Oakdale shows up we are going to get our opponents’ best shots,” Oakdale coach Trent Merzon said. “It’s a good lesson to learn that we will get everybody’s best game.”
The camp was Oakdale’s last full-contact practice in pads until the first preseason practice begins on Aug. 6.
The team will lift weights and run until Friday, take a week off, then return to weightlift and undergo conditioning until the preseason.
It’s a long and intense process necessary for Oakdale to compete in the gauntlet that is the Valley Oak League.
“The more live looks you get, the more it prepares you for the season,” Merzon said. “It’s a great time of year to see what’s broke and what’s fixed.
“I am looking for the ability to be coached and the ability to listen to what coaches want them to do — play fast, play with desire and play with passion.”
Merzon said he wanted his kids to struggle and respond to adversity during the camp, both of which Oakdale faced while entertaining the fierce efforts of Downey and Enochs during Oakdale’s final day of camp on July 12.
“We probably had the ability to do some things that would have made life easier, but we chose not to, to see our kids make some plays,” Merzon said. “The journey is a process and when you deal with high school athletes and young athletes it’s important that our kids keep things in perspective and keep growing every day regardless of what the world is telling them.
“Our kids have a lot of room to grow and our ceiling will probably never be reached. We need to keep grinding, be loyal and dedicated to each other to put the team first.”