There were no referees, no huge crowd of cheering fans watching, yet when the Oakdale High varsity football team suited up for its annual Red-Gold scrimmage it was obvious football season had arrived.The Mustangs’ offensive and defensive units battled for a small crowd of Oakdale faithful in what is the team’s season opener for full contact football.The defense held the upper hand during the squads’ first action of the season, taking advantage of the early season jump that defensive units seem to always hold over the offense in the first few weeks of the season.The two teams played football at a high level, holding nothing back in the battle that lasted a little over an hour, dishing out punishment defensively and displaying new offensive looks in what will be the team’s second title defense over the past three seasons.The scrimmage was filled with action, making the two units hated foes for the first — and last — time of the season.“I think in order to be effective in the game of football,” Oakdale head coach Trent Merzon said, “you need to build up a little animosity for your opponent, especially to be a defensive player. I think our defense did a good job of building up that animosity towards us (offense).“I just want to make sure everybody knows we’re on the same team now.”The Mustangs gave the couple hundred people in attendance exactly what they came for, showing up and playing hard-nosed football the squad has grown accustomed to playing.The Mustangs will look to build on the effort displayed in the team scrimmage when they roll out the welcome mat for the Central Catholic Raiders as the perennial Sac-Joaquin Section powerhouse comes to the Corral for a season opening scrimmage on Sept. 4.Oakdale learned a lot about themselves through these opening stages of the 2009 season, but there are several questions that remain to be answered before Turlock comes to town on Sept. 11 for the first game of the season.“I really want to see how we respond to adversity,” Merzon said. “I know we’re going to get knocked down, I want to see how we get back up. I know we’re going to get up, I just want to see how we get up.“That aspect is very important.”The Mustangs were thrilled to get to play in the annual scrimmage amongst themselves, yet Merzon, entering his 10th season as head coach, knew that the Red-Gold scrimmage is just another bump along a road that runs through November… and hopefully in to December.“I have been doing this too long to get excited over a scrimmage,” Merzon said matter-of-factly. “These first two weeks are tough. It’s tough on players, it’s tough on coaches … it’s miserable hot out there.“It’s a job, it’s work, it’s a grind. To me, it was just another practice.”The coaching staff was thrilled with how the defense played in the scrimmage, yet realize there is work to do on the offensive side of the ball.The team will get in more work with Raiders, playing in an offense vs. defense set-up with the first string units gong against each other for 10 plays at a time, then surrendering to the other program’s first team, followed by the teams’ second string units.Action will get under way Sept. 4 at 7 p.m. at the Corral.