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Mustangs See Surprise Title With Help From East Union
11-10 OAK FB1
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A 42-13 third quarter lead effectively put away Sonora High’s varsity football team, but Oakdale players, coaches and fans were on pins and needles well after Friday’s Valley Oak League finale at The Corral, hanging on announcer Pete Simoncini’s every word as he announced the Manteca vs. East Union final score.

Simoncini, offering congratulations to Oakdale’s co-Valley Oak League champions, sent hundreds of the Mustang faithful into a pandemonium of celebration as they recognized the Lancers’ surprising 10-7 defeat of the previously unbeaten Buffaloes.

The Manteca upset, coupled with Oakdale’s 49-20 downing of Sonora, granted the Mustangs a fourth consecutive league title.

“I’m numb right now,” said a shocked Oakdale coach Trent Merzon following the announcement that the Mustangs shared the title honor with Manteca. “The great thing about football and athletics is you never know what’s going to happen.”

Manteca appeared primed to finish an undefeated season after they beat Oakdale in a 35-28 thriller on Oct. 29, but couldn’t get past an East Union squad that was dispatched by the Mustangs in a 63-21 landslide at The Corral on Oct. 25.

The defeat paved the way to Oakdale’s school record of four straight league titles, an accomplishment not lost on coach Merzon.

“I could not be prouder of this group,” Merzon said. “They just kept going and kept grinding. This is an unbelievable team.

“I know our season is going to end at some point, and when it does I am going to be heartbroken.”

Oakdale saw a huge ground game and spectacular defense work over visiting Sonora on Friday. The team rumbled to 475 total rushing yards and saw three huge interceptions from safety Justin Martin.

The crafty defender pulled down a Vince Thompson deflection for an interception in Oakdale’s own end zone on the final play of the first half. He snagged an errant throw again in the third quarter after a 35-13 score, and padded the Oakdale lead in the fourth when he returned his final interception 40 yards for a score.

“We just played with energy and played off the wall tonight,” Martin said. “I was baiting the quarterback a little bit and I took advantage of some plays.”

Daniel Linder landed the two longest rushes of the contest with a 61-yard score in the first quarter and a 39-yard burst to pay dirt in the third. He finished with 19 rushes for 191 yards in the win.

Linder’s bruising counterpart, Marcus Hernandez, found the end zone on three different rushes and worked up field on 31 carriers for 172 yards. Marcus Northcutt ran seven times for 69 yards and a score while Spencer Thomas was 2-for-3 with 49 yards (one interception) from the helm.

The Oakdale defense saw Hondo Arpoika, A.C. Brown and Blake Thompson all come down with sacks.

Thompson, one of the best defensive linemen in the section, was more than happy to a see a big win over Sonora in his final prep contest vs. the Wildcats. He was one of the first to erupt in celebration over the EU-Manteca score.

“I was really hoping that East Union would come out and give their all,” Thompson said. “They did, and I’m glad for them.”

Oakdale plays host to Christian Brothers at 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 12 to kick off the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.