For 12 minutes, the Friday showdown between Oakdale and Sierra High varsity football teams was shaping into the high-scoring slugfest it was billed to be.
But the 13th minute came with a knockout blow that sidelined Sierra star Anthony Cota for the game and Oakdale punched in five unanswered scores to put Sierra to sleep with a 45-14 final score at The Corral.
Sierra scored on two of their first three possessions to nab a 14-10 lead after a quarter, but faltered on a drive deep into Oakdale territory after Cota came down with a broken forearm a minute into the second period. The Timberwolves missed a 31-yard field goal on that drive and gave Oakdale the ball for the first of seven possessions that resulted in 35 consecutive points.
Cota left the game with 103 yards and a 35-yard touchdown on only nine carries.
“It looked like we weren’t going to be able to stop (Cota),” Oakdale coach Trent Merzon said. “You never want to see a kid get hurt, but it’s football. It happens at every level … It can change the game drastically.”
The Oakdale offense bullied to 522 total yards after 393 rushing yards on 45 touches. Junior quarterback Spencer Thomas completed 5 of 11 passes for 129 yards and a touchdown, but also threw his first interception of the season. He made up for it with a 17-yard scoring strike to junior Austin Jones with only six seconds to play in the opening half.
The score gave Oakdale a 30-14 lead at the break, which only grew after a 12-yard score from Marcus Northcutt (16 rushes, 192 yards) just four plays into the third quarter.
And while Northcutt battered Sierra with big plays to the outside, senior running back Marcus Hernandez exploded into the heart of the Sierra defense with 17 rushes for 135 yards and three touchdowns. He also intercepted two passes, batted away a dangerous pass to the flat and made four tackles on defense. One of his picks was a spectacular one-handed snag near the line of scrimmage.
“Usually I make big plays on offense, but I did it on both sides today,” Hernandez said afterwards. “I think we played tough, and we just keep getting better.”
Bastian Jimenez forced a fumble on special teams that Thomas (also the punter) recovered and ended with nine tackles.
Justin Martin booted a 27-yard field goal and made eight tackles on defense. C.J. Picinich (seven tackles), Eddie Machado (interception), Manny Hernandez (interception) and Nikk Ryan (sack) also made key plays for a Mustang defense that struggled at times to end Sierra drives.
Sierra rolled to 380 yards of offense and saw a 14-of-21 effort from quarterback Anthony Perea (one touchdown). Perea’s four interceptions kept Sierra from scoring more than twice.
Ryan rumbled to 40 yards on four carries for the Oakdale offense and found the end zone from 28 yards out for the game’s final score.
“I thought we should have played better defensively,” Sierra coach Jeff Harbison said. “I feel like our offense was able to move the ball, but you can’t turn the ball over like we did against a team like Oakdale.”
The Mustangs (4-0) will continue the Valley Oak League campaign with host Kimball (1-3) on Friday. The Jaguars fell 41-20 to Manteca last week, but played tough in consecutive games against Cosumnes Oaks, West and Tracy to start the season.
Kimball is led by 6 foot, 170 pound quarterback Zack Johnson (No. 7), who has 576 passing yards, 347 rushing yards and 12 total touchdowns on the season.