They hardly ever see it coming.
Lanky Mitch Molletta fires to the inside, pinning a defensive lineman against a wall of likewise jerseys. A linebacker fills the void, only to be obstructed by Oakdale wingback Max Stevens.
A safety rushes to aid the play, but Johnathan Carmelich, who had started the play on the other side of center Taylor Machutta, is suddenly exploding through his face.
The safety reels and Darus Nelson rolls downfield for a hefty gain.
It’s a simple design of blocks, but Oakdale linemen execute them to perfection.
Going the other way? Swap Molleta for Dalton Stewart, shift Stevens to the other side and pull Frankie Trent across the face of the line for another devastating block.
It’s just one play in a book lined with opportunities for Oakdale linemen to prove their worth.
So far, they have.
Oakdale is 0-2 on the season, but with only two returning starters and a completely new offensive and defensive line, the Mustangs have found surprising strength in the trenches.
Then again, Oakdale offensive line coach Zack Quaccia is hardly surprised. The former Mustang, four-year Stanford lineman and Schutt Academic All American knows why Oakdale’s first-year starters have played so well.
“They are hard-working kids,” Quaccia said. “Although they do not have a lot of experience, they played a lot (for the freshmen and junior varsity teams) and they are coming into their own right now and playing good together, as a unit.”
The group (offense and defense) pushed around larger Turlock players during Oakdale’s season opener, then traded blows snap for snap with one of the top lines they will see all season in Enterprise. On Friday, facing their toughest test of the current season (hosting Paraclete), the Oakdale line will be instrumental in avoiding an 0-3 start to 2013.
They won’t be the only group of linemen looking to make a statement.
Paraclete returns senior starters Mason Vankirk (6 foot, 7 inch, 290 pounds), D’errick Chambers (6-2, 285) and Jonathan Flores (5-10, 175) on the offensive line.
The three will anchor a group that attempts to contain the speed and strength of Oakdale defensive linemen Wyatt Hjelm, Bailey Dryden, Michael Baskind and Chase Higgs.
It’s an intriguing matchup that also pits Oakdale’s young skill players against a Paraclete team that entered the season ranked No. 18 among all small school programs in the nation by maxpreps.com. Paraclete (2-1) opened the season with a 21-12 loss to Serrano, but dropped Burroughs the next week 45-14 and ousted Centennial of Compton 38-6 on Sept. 13. Centennial was a Southern Section Northwest semifinalist (fell 13-8 to state power Nordhoff) last year.
Paraclete represents a stout opponent, but Oakdale linemen will be ready for the snap.
“Our kids embrace that selflessness that is a part of a small community,” coach Quaccia said. “They put themselves after the team, and that is something they have grown up with.”
Varsity begins at 7 p.m., after JV’s 5 p.m. start on Friday at The Corral.