Brock Whiting took the handoff from Dillon Tamburrino and lunged toward the goal line, his shoulder pads slicing into an apparent hole in the Enterprise High defensive line.
Inches from an incredible comeback over one of the top teams in the state, Oakdale’s junior fullback was abruptly stopped by the surging form of 6 foot, 1 inch, 252-pound John Boshell. The stalwart senior linebacker, who had already intercepted a batted Tamburrino pass, shrugged aside a block and drove Whiting to The Corral turf just shy of the end zone with only 25 seconds to play.
His tackle effectively halted an Oakdale attempt to take the lead at the end of a 6-minute, 20-play drive that nearly allowed Oakdale to accomplish the unthinkable.
An ensuing onside kick was recovered by Enterprise, leaving the Hornets a 23-22 sigh-of-relief on Friday, in their first game since capturing the North Section Division I crown in 2012.
“I thought we were good, but not good enough,” Oakdale coach Trent Merzon said. “We feel we should have won.
“We wanted to win it right there (the two point conversion).”
Oakdale tied the game at 16-all with a 28-yard field goal (the program’s first in two years) by C.J. Backman with 7:25 to play. Enterprise fired back with a stunning 63-yard touchdown pass-and-catch between Bobby Luken and Izzy Perea, then pinned Oakdale back at their own 15 yard line after a blocking penalty on the following kick.
Tamburrino, who started the season 3 for 14 for 19 yards and an interception, had completed the best pass of his varsity career when Darus Nelson took a short fourth-down dish for 22 yards (weaving in between defenders) on the previous drive.
On the momentum of his biggest throw, Tamburrino suddenly found strength to keep Oakdale drives alive when the team needed it most. He hit Nelson to convert the first third-down of the drive, and then repeated the feat three plays later on a sharp 22-yard strike to Dillon Farquhar.
When his team faced fourth-down at the Enterprise 24-yard line, he zipped a pass perfectly into Farquhar’s hands near the sideline to escape defeat. His next throw set up a Whiting rush into the end zone and gave Oakdale a shot at the comeback. He was 4 for 8 for 48 yards in the final six minutes of the game and ended 9 of 21 for 83 yards.
“(Tamburrino) had some big plays down the stretch we needed,” Merzon said. “That gave us an opportunity to win.”
Whiting came up short on the two-point conversion attempt, but finished with three rushing scores and 87 yards on 24 bruising carries. He accounted for most of Oakdale’s 162 yards on the ground.
“Literally one yard away,” Whiting said afterwards. “I may… I don’t know… I thought I had it.
“But one yard away… I came up short. We give up the mistakes, we win that game for sure.”
Oakdale’s mistakes were costly (the interception, a Whiting fumble, a few errant passes), but Enterprise made even more. The Hornets were tagged for 60 penalty yards in the first half alone, lost three fumbles and threw an interception (caught by Oakdale’s Christian Johnson).
When they didn’t deliver mishaps, the Hornets delivered big blows. Isaiah Matthews ran 14 times for 76 yards and powered into the end zone on two one-yard scores. Jace O’Ravez had eight rushes for 71 yards and Luken (2 of 7 for 78 yards) also ran for 44 yards.
“(Enterprise) is a well-coached team and they were physical,” Merzon said. “I thought they looked a lot like us. They played a lot like us.”
Oakdale (0-2) has lost two straight one-point games to start the season. The Mustangs have a bye week, and host Paraclete (1-1) of Lancaster on Sept. 21. The Spirits were ranked the 18th small school program in the nation by Maxpreps.com to start the year.
The freshmen team opened the three-game series with a 26-0 win over Enterprise on Friday.
The junior varsity program followed with a 24-7 victory, following a pair of touchdowns by Robert Bagley. Ben Solario also scored in the win while Lane Trapp kicked a rare JV field goal.
“The team is just gelling together,” coach Matt Miranda said. “They knew that they were going up against a good, well-coached team and they took care of business.”
Miranda credited his staff, coaches Rodney Pereira, Bobby Monges, Mark Roberts and Greg Anderson for getting the JV Mustangs up for the win.