With 11 seconds to play in Friday’s opening half and his team sporting a one-touchdown lead, Oakdale High linebacker A.C. Brown crushed Casa Roble quarterback Mitch Samson just as he released an incomplete pass on a roll-out to his left.
A play later, Samson avoided the rush long enough to find Frankie Patalano at Oakdale’s one yard-line, but Mustang safety Justin Martin exploded beneath him to drop the larger receiver to The Corral’s artificial turf just inches from the goal line as time expired.
The two plays were as close as Casa Roble would get after a one-sided second half and 41-19 Mustang conquest in the semi-final round of the Division III Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.
Oakdale plays Del Oro Saturday in the D-III SJS Championship at Sacramento State University for the coveted blue banner.
“I never thought we would be here … hard work pays off, I guess,” Oakdale receiver/defensive back Vince Thompson said on Friday. “We are going all the way, no doubt. No one is going to stop us.”
Thompson highlighted the first half with an amazing 33-yard catch over two lanky defenders after a lobbed wingback pass from Marcus Northcutt to Casa’s three yard-line.
Marcus Hernandez (31 rushes, 121 yards, four touchdowns) scored two plays later, and was first to find the end zone on an 11-yard scamper during the game’s opening drive.
The visiting Casa Roble Rams found success through the air in the first half, but struggled to maintain drives in the final two quarters and even saw a Samson pass get intercepted by Oakdale linebacker Bastian Jimenez in the team’s final possession.
Oakdale got the ball with 6:04 to play and drove the field to run out the clock.
“All we have done is get better every week and do things that people say we can’t do,” Oakdale head coach Trent Merzon said. “They have been doing it all year and every time they come out to play, they absolutely play with a level of emotion and passion that is so much fun to watch.”
Spencer Thomas ran in a third quarter touchdown was superb behind center, completing all four of his passes for 99 yards and two scores. The first touchdown came on a short pass to Daniel Linder, who flew down Casa Roble’s own sideline for a 69-yard jaunt with 2:45 remaining in the opening quarter.
Linder finished with 117 yards on just 18 rushes, showcasing some brilliant speed even after a late first-half injury. Oakdale rolled to 436 total yards as a team, including 304 from four rushers.
Casa Roble was unable to produce any type of ground game. The team produced just 31 rushing yards while Mustang defenders peppered Samson for hit after hit on nearly every throw.
Brown, one of 26 Oakdale seniors to see the section finals in his final prep season, played a huge role in the quarterback bullying.
“We came in and we wanted to be physical and I think we did that,” Brown said. “Nobody thought we could do this at the beginning of the year, but here we are.
“We got it done.”