The steady stream of football fans filing out of Sierra High’s Daniel Teicheira stadium halfway through a 49-7 Oakdale victory should have stopped by the box office to collect a refund on their admission, because Friday’s varsity contest was hardly the Valley Oak League showdown it was billed to be.
Oakdale (1-0 VOL, 3-1 overall) jumped to a 21-0 lead just nine minutes, 18 seconds into the game, led 42-7 at the half and needed only two fourth quarter plays to finish off Sierra (0-1, 3-1) with a running clock.
Sierra running back Anthony Cota, touted as one of the best in the state, had fewer rushing yards than Oakdale had offensive plays.
“We just worked in practice and watched a lot of film over the last two weeks,” Oakdale quarterback Spencer Thomas said afterwards. “We knew it was going to be tough game.”
It didn’t look so tough, especially as Oakdale bullied to 425 yards of offense on 50 plays. Thomas was 4 of 6 for 113 yards and two touchdowns and took 13 carries for 101 yards. He was the third member of a rushing attack that included Nikk Ryan (20 carries, 137 yards, three touchdowns) and Marcus Northcutt (12 rushes, 72 yards, two touchdowns).
Cota entered the game with 537 rushing yards and more touchdown runs (12) than any other back in the state across the span of just three games, but was stifled to just 47 yards on 15 carries. He broke loose on a pass to the flat for a 79 yard reception and score with 2:23 remaining in the first quarter, but didn’t catch another pass and escaped for only three first down runs.
“We had 11 dudes staring at 21 (Cota),” Oakdale coach Trent Merzon said. “We wanted to make everybody else try to hurt us.
“I thought Spencer played unbelievable, Nikk Ryan did an unbelievable job and our defense played really good football tonight.”
Cota’s progress was stopped by an Oakdale defense that steadily penetrated into the Timberwolves backfield and shut down his running lanes. He struggled to stay on the field late in the game as the hits began to take their toll.
“He was limping off to the sideline,” Oakdale linebacker Bastian Jimenez (11 total tackles, eight solo) said afterwards. “We were constantly going for his legs — that’s just the way we play.
“That team is nothing without Cota.”
With Cota held in check, Sierra struggled to only 68 rushing yards and 170 through the air from two quarterbacks. Sierra’s Jake Pruitt was a solid 9 of 19 for 80 yards on two possessions deep into Oakdale territory during the final 18 minutes of the game.
He missed a fourth down connection at the end of the third and watched a 19-play drive come up empty in the final moments when his last pass found Oakdale’s Nik Garza for an interception. DeWayne Finney also intercepted a Guillermo Nunez pass in the second quarter (his third in two games) to set up Ryan for one of his three scores with only 36 seconds remaining in the half.
Northcutt put Oakdale on the scoreboard four minutes into the game on a 2-yard push and watched Thomas connect with Austin Jones and Landon Ichord on passes of 63 and 21 yards to end back-to-back first quarter possessions with a score.
Ryan would cap the next three Oakdale drives with touchdown runs (three, 11 and 11 yards out) as the Mustangs trudged ahead for an insurmountable lead. Northcutt’s 10-yard score with 6:12 to play in the third quarter was the last time either team would reach the end zone.
“We weren’t trying to make a statement, we were really, honestly trying to go 1-0 in the Valley Oak League,” coach Merzon said. “I’m not sure if anyone is going undefeated through the Valley Oak League. We are right now, but I know (three) other teams are too.”
Those three other teams include Manteca (42-25 over Kimball), Sonora (41-15 over Weston Ranch) and East Union (34-7 over Lathrop).
Oakdale faces Kimball and 2011 second team All VOL quarterback Zack Johnson on Friday. Johnson was suspended for the first three games of the season, but gashed the Manteca defense for 201 yards and a score on 17 carries last week. He was 14 of 23 from the helm with 177 yards and two scores (one interception). Johnson accounted for 172 yards and two touchdowns against Oakdale last year.
Kimball is the second of seven VOL teams that will look to end Oakdale’s streak of nine straight conference wins, five straight conference championships and stop the trend Oakdale has displayed with at least a share of eight of the last 10 VOL titles.
“I told our kids we are going to be going home with a bull’s-eye after the game, win or lose,” Merzon said.
While the varsity contest lacked its advertised competitiveness, the junior varsity game featured an exciting back and forth stanza that swung Sierra’s way in the final seconds as a failed two-point conversion from Oakdale left the Timberwolves with a 21-20 thrilling victory on Friday.
Brandon Davis ran for a 4-yard score with 41 seconds to play to bring Oakdale within one point, but a two point conversion pass from Dylan Farquhar dropped incomplete to leave Sierra with a recovered onside kick and the win.
“We were going for two all the way,” Oakdale coach Dave Hill said. “We did not go all the way there to tie. There is no overtime in JV games and it wasn’t even a question whether or not we were going for the win.”
Farquhar scored Oakdale’s first points on a quarterback keeper, repeating the feat in the third quarter on fourth and one for a 14-7 Mustang lead. Sierra rebounded with a couple long passes to tie the game, then took the lead on their own quarterback sneak at the end of the third.
Oakdale’s steady dose of rushes from Frankie Trent, Tyler Flores, Kevin Corral and C.J. Domingo coupled with Farquhar completions to give Oakdale a chance at one last score, but it wasn’t enough to completely erase the deficit.
“Sierra is a good team, and playing them like that gave us confidence that till the last tick on the clock we are playing good football,” Hill said. “Our kids never quit and just kept banging and banging.”
The first team Oakdale defense did not surrender a single score and rallied behind terrific rushing to blast past Sierra 37-10 at home on Sept. 20.
Darus Nelson ran for touchdown runs of 80, 70 and 30 yards and had a two-point conversion in the victory. Eric Amador blitzed in from 30 yards out and saw Isaac Moreno connect on a 40-yard touchdown pass to Robert Bagley. Lane Trapp booted a 30-yard field goal. Sierra scored in the final moments, landed a safety and intercepted a Moreno pass (returning it for a score).
Coach Steve Jericoff said the youngest Mustangs have things they need to fix, but saw a great team effort and a big win for the squad.