We’ve heard the “one game at a time” cliché all year long from Oakdale High football players and coaches, but 13 weeks into the season the Mustangs have finally admitted their true intentions.
“We have been wanting this ever since the end of last year and beginning of this year,” Oakdale quarterback Spencer Thomas said. “Now we got it and we are going to play for our seniors this year and the seniors last year who didn’t get to win it.”
Oakdale takes the field for Friday’s 7:30 p.m. kickoff against Del Oro in the championship game of the Division III Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs at Sacramento State University for a rematch of last year’s 21-0 defeat in the exact same venue and circumstance.
Well, almost the same circumstance.
This year, the winner of Oakdale (13-0) and Del Oro (12-1) will most likely be a favorite to take the NorCal bid into a Division II State Bowl game. Del Oro has been atop the Calhisports.com bowl rankings all season, while Oakdale will likely sit at No. 4 after losses by previously unbeaten Buhach Colony and Elk Grove last week.
Del Oro sports only one loss to top-25 nationally ranked Westlake (in overtime), and reached the SJS finals with a 38-0 thumping of visiting Whitney on Nov. 25. The Golden Eagles are fast, strong and considered even better than the team that defeated Oakdale for a section title in 2010.
“We wanted that rematch,” Oakdale coach Trent Merzon said. “We have been talking about the rematch all year and now we’ve got it.
“It’s been an amazing run and it’s amazing how fast it goes. That’s football and that’s why I really want our guys to enjoy it every step of the way.”
Del Oro has a 544-217 scoring advantage this season against opponents with a combined 83-64 record. Oakdale has bested its schedule with a 635-191 lead over opponents with a 79-64 combined record.
Oakdale has eight wins over 2011 playoff qualifiers while Del Oro sports nine, though two of those teams (Spanish Springs and Clovis West) have won only three games each this year.
The Golden Eagles have rolled to over 3,000 rushing yards and over 2,000 passing yards and showed plenty of balance during a 324-yard conquest of Whitney last week. Quarterback Bobby Heatherington (No. 12) showed off his arm with a 59-yard touchdown pass while Brandon Monroe (No. 32) bullied to 146 yards on 18 carries.
Monroe (1,469 yards) and No. 6 Nick O’Sullivan (1,208 yards) had 19 combined carries against Oakdale a year ago, but were both held to around three yards a touch. The two saw Del Oro score on a surprise pass from goal-line formation in the only offensive touchdown of last year’s section final. The Golden Eagles also scored on a kickoff return and an interception return, and played a fantastic rush defense to stop Oakdale ball carriers.
The Oakdale offense has been productive all season out of Wing-T formations with an occasional spread package, and will look to move the ball much better than it did a year ago.
“We just have got to take care of business this week and prepare ourselves,” Merzon said. “We are going to give all that we have got.
“Is that enough? I don’t know. But we will give it all we’ve got.”