You know a town appreciates its football when the parking lot and surrounding streets are packed with cars for a weekend scrimmage with no special teams or recorded scores.
And Oakdale High’s football program — competing against Los Banos across all three levels on Saturday, Aug. 21 — didn’t disappoint.
After holding the first team Los Banos offense to no scores in three possessions, Oakdale’s varsity offense got the ball rolling on a 60-yard touchdown run up the middle of the field by Gino Valente.
The play came on Oakdale’s first snap from scrimmage and was the result of a bruising push up the middle of the field by last year’s defensive back.
Oakdale’s junior varsity and freshman programs also got off on the right foot, battering Los Banos ball carriers for big hits in front of a healthy contingent of Oakdale faithful at the Corral.
The scrimmage also allowed varsity Mustangs to give fans another look at their unique practice jerseys. Instead of a traditional numbered jersey, the Mustang practice uniform features variations of different Mustang characteristics across each player’s chest.
The words (faith, loyalty, courage, passion and toughness) aren’t just for show.
“We had those last year too, and they are some characteristics we try to enforce around here,” Oakdale coach Trent Merzon said. “We think if we see it all the time when we wear it, it will remind us exactly of what we want to be.”
Oakdale worked through some successful plays with a healthy dose of the run and senior quarterback Zach Abbott, before switching to sophomore play caller, Spencer Thomas, later on in the scrimmage.
Thomas had plenty of opportunities to roll out and make passes downfield, connecting best with targets in the flat or near the sideline.
Los Banos found success in later offensive drives and even punched a score in on the back of a powerful fullback.
“I thought our kids did a great job at the scrimmage,” Merzon said. “I told them at the scrimmage we’re not going to critique them on how well they do — the only thing we are going to critique them on is toughness and passion.
“Yeah we made some mistakes, but we played with some enthusiasm and we ran around and hit people.”
To watch an interview with coach Merzon, visit oakdaleleader.com. Oakdale plays host to state champion Modesto Christian on Friday, Aug. 27 to open the preseason.