The seven other teams in the Valley Oak League will have to wait another year to attempt unseating Oakdale High’s varsity football team from the conference throne.
The Mustangs built upon a 14-7 lead in the third quarter with two unanswered scores in the final 15 minutes of the game to defeat the Manteca Buffaloes 28-7 on Friday at Manteca’s Guss Schmiedt Field.
The win locks at least a share of Oakdale’s sixth consecutive VOL crown and the ninth in 11 seasons. It also awards Mustang coach Trent Merzon his school-record 124th career win, surpassing the 123 from Dale Clipper.
And nothing came easy in this one.
Oakdale struggled to break into the open field on outside runs, relying on powerful up field carries by fullbacks Nikk Ryan (17 carries, 117 yards) and Josh Watts (four carries, 57 yards) to extend possessions.
“They did a great a job of taking away a lot of our stuff, but they weren’t able to take away the fullback trap,” Merzon said. “We feel like within our system we are going to find a way, and tonight it was trap.”
Quarterback Spencer Thomas connected on touchdown passes of 35 and 21 yards to wideout Austin Jones (three catches, 64 yards). The first put Oakdale up 14-0 before half time after a deceptive play from the pair. On third down, Jones made a nonchalant stroll toward his own sideline, suddenly spinning and catching a dart from Thomas that was thrown before he even turned around. When defenders crashed to his position, Jones cut against the face of the defense, turned up field and rumbled untouched for a score.
His second catch was even better, and came at the end of a perfect arcing toss from Thomas that dropped into his arms at the far left side of the end zone. He pulled the ball to his body and drug both feet across the ground before crashing out of bounds with defenders in tow. The throw and Jones’ ensuing two-point conversion catch put Oakdale up by 21 points with only 9:42 to play in the game.
Manteca would not bridge the gap.
“It feels great to do my part for the team,” Jones said afterwards. “I had a job to do and I did it.”
Thomas would finish 3 for 7 for 64 yards.
The Oakdale defense was superb in stopping a powerful Manteca offense that averaged over 36 points a game before the meeting. Manteca is 5-4 overall and 4-3 in the VOL, but has only fallen to teams with an 8-1 overall record. They were every bit as tough as advertised.
“The teams that have had success against them are dynamite football teams,” Merzon said. “(Manteca) is a very good football team. They played their butts off.
“Opportunities like this are why you coach, why you play and why you work so hard.”
Bastian Jimenez led Oakdale with 10 solo tackles (three for loss) and a sack. Jimenez now has four sacks, three forced fumbles and a blocked field goal on a defensive résumé that includes an astounding 65 tackles this year. He was a big reason Manteca’s leading rusher, Eddie Smith, was held to just 23 yards.
Oakdale had four sacks in the win. Two were nabbed by Ryan, who managed eight tackles and was a constant harassment to Manteca quarterbacks Ryan Fox and Joe Menzel (combined 13 for 25, 185 yards). The quarterbacks made a few errant throws under duress, two that were picked off by Oakdale defenders (DeWayne Finney and Nik Garza).
The Finney interception set up Ryan for Oakdale’s first score of the game from three yards out in the second quarter. Ryan would nab another three-yard score with 2:17 remaining in the third quarter to give Oakdale a 20-7 lead.
Ryan’s versatility on both sides of the ball was an interesting factor throughout the game, as occasional spells on the sideline would break apart the big plays he made seemingly every time he stepped on the field.
“It’s not about me being tired, it’s about when the game permits me to take a break,” Ryan said following the contest. “It felt amazing to come through tonight and do something like this my senior year.”
Oakdale led 28-21 with under five minutes to play, but allowed a long touchdown scamper from Manteca and the two-point conversion to fall behind at 29-28.
A Mustang interception on the ensuing drive gave Manteca the chance to put away the win.
“I thought that was the best game we have played all year,” Oakdale coach Dave Hill said. “I was kind of surprised they went for two, but I would have done the same thing.”
Oakdale rallied behind Frankie Trent who bullied to 158 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries. Kevin Corral also ran 14 times for 67 yards while Tyler Flores gutted through a tough game to nab a three-yard score.
The JV Mustangs (3-3 VOL) will play unbeaten Sonora on Friday for a shot to upset the VOL champs.
In a highly anticipated battle of two 8-0 teams, Oakdale came away the victor 34-14 after breaking open a 14-14 deadlock in the second quarter with three thrilling touchdowns.
Broderick Medrano rumbled for a four-yard touchdown to give Oakdale the lead just before halftime, and added a 20-yard score in the final period to put the youngest Mustangs in the lead for good.
Medrano scored Oakdale’s first touchdown of the game and watched Darus Nelson make it 14 with his own carry. Austin Manning dashed four yards for Oakdale’s third-quarter score.
Oakdale coach Steve Jericoff credited his defensive line for terrific play against a Manteca offense that had not been stopped thus far in 2012.