One of the most powerful rushing football teams in Sac-Joaquin Section football history has a new trick up its sleeve in 2011 — the air attack.
Oakdale High varsity quarterback Spencer Thomas lit up the night sky with precise strikes to five different receivers, and led Oakdale to a 33-7 victory over Turlock on Friday at The Corral.
Thomas hit Marcus Northcutt (four catches, 93 yards) for a 19-yard completion on Oakdale’s first play from scrimmage and converted 14 of 20 pass attempts for 225 yards and a touchdown.
“Coach (Trent Merzon) told us that we’re going to be passing a little bit more, so we opened up the offense,” Thomas said. “I’m glad we are 1-0, it’s a good feeling.”
And while Oakdale’s offense soared to big gains, the Mustang defense was even more dominant against a Division I opponent that claimed a Central California Conference title and defeated Oakdale 39-14 as season ago.
The Oakdale defense (three forced turnovers) held Turlock to 128 total yards and kept them from a first down on eight consecutive possessions to start the game. The first turnover fell into Hondo Arpoika’s arms for an interception after Nikk Ryan deflected a Sean Downs screen pass with nine minutes to play in the third quarter at Turlock’s own 22-yard-line. Oakdale drove the remaining yards and found the end zone on a seven-yard keeper by Thomas to take an important 19-0 lead.
“I’m glad I was able to put our offense in that position,” Arpoika said. “I was happy that it helped us out.”
Oakdale linebacker C.J. Picinich ripped the ball from the arms of a Turlock runner for a fumble recovery on the Bulldogs’ ensuing drive and watched teammate Marcus Hernandez (88 total yards) bully into the end zone three plays later.
Oakdale recovered three of their own fumbles and churned up 158 rushing yards on 48 carries. Hernandez (41 yards), Thomas (29 yards) and Northcutt (16 yards) struggled to break free for big gains, while Jordan Miller caught two passes and exploded for 68 yards on eight carries during the first varsity contest of his career. His initial touch went for 17 yards in the second of two drives that ended in Justin Martin field goals (30 yards, 23 yards).
“I was very nervous, but once I got my first run out of the way I was ready for the next one,” Miller said. “I’m very proud of the team after our first game. We still have some stuff to work on, and we will get after that in practice.”
Thomas followed the Martin field goals with a two-yard scoring strike to Hernandez and later watched Northcutt ditch defenders on a five-yard toss for the 26-point lead with nine minutes to play in the game. Josh Watts caught two passes for 24 yards while Austin Jones made two tough catches for 50 yards. His last was a 33-yard jump ball at the Turlock two-yard line that he ripped from the grasp of a Bulldog defender.
“We are going to spread the ball sideline to sideline,” coach Merzon said. “We’ve just got to keep grinding.
“That was a good team we beat.”
Oakdale’s junior varsity team fell in a 6-0 score to Turlock and the Bulldog freshmen landed a 28-27 win over Oakdale.