If you are not bubbling with anticipation over Friday’s Valley Oak League title match between Oakdale and Manteca varsity football programs, it would probably take a couple of charged defibrillators to raise your heart rate.
The Mustangs (6-2 overall, 4-0 VOL) and Buffaloes (8-0, 4-0) are already guaranteed a spot in the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs, leaving league title honors and a higher postseason seed up for grabs at 7 p.m. at Guss Schmeidt Field in Manteca.
“I think the preparation for Manteca starts in the summer, because everything we do in the off season is to get ready to play great teams,” Oakdale coach Trent Merzon said. “I guarantee that if you ask him, (Manteca coach Eric Reis) will say the same thing about us. Everything they do in the off season is built around the Mustangs.”
Oakdale ensured their playoff qualification with a 42-14 win over visiting Weston Ranch on Oct. 22, while Manteca stayed atop the league standings with a 47-19 win over Lathrop.
Oakdale led Weston Ranch 42-0 at the half and didn’t surrender a single point from their first team defense. Mustang runners saw big holes pave the way for 405 rushing yards, Daniel Linder (201 yards, two touchdowns) and Marcus Hernandez (158, two scores) nabbing all their yards from scrimmage in the first two quarters. Spencer Thomas ran in an 8-yard touchdown and tossed a 30-yard scoring strike as well.
“We just wanted to finish them,” offensive tackle and team captain Marco Camacho said. “We knew if we opened holes it would bury (Weston Ranch).”
The Cougars mustered just 233 total yards of offense, and only found second half scores after a muffed Oakdale snap and late Mustang fumble.
“Oakdale is one of the top tier teams, and you have to come out ready to play against a team like that,” Weston Ranch coach Mike Hale said. “They have got some horses, and we were not able to run with those guys tonight.”
If Oakdale wins Friday, it will represent a fourth consecutive league title, and will be a credit to a Mustang defensive unit that has been outstanding in VOL play.
Blake Thompson could easily be considered the VOL’s top pass-rush threat from the edge, while hard-nosed linebackers A.C. Brown, Hondo Arpoika and Bastian Jimenez have limited speedy runners all season.
Defensive backs Justin Martin, Vince Thompson and Braydon Stephens have caught nearly as many passes from opposing quarterbacks as their respective receivers, and will look to fluster Manteca’s passing game as well.
Robert Ladiges leads Manteca runners with 1,239 yards and 21 touchdowns on a breakout season. Manteca quarterback Matt Burrows has completed 80 of 138 passes for 1,498 yards and 17 touchdowns (seven interceptions) as well.
Between Manteca’s potent offense, always stubborn defense and Oakdale’s talented and disciplined starting cast, all signs point to an epic fight for supremacy in one of the top football conferences in the state.
“What more can you ask for than one game at Guss Schmeidt Field against a great team and a great program similar to us?” coach Merzon said. “It’s going to be awesome.”