All that was missing was Boise State’s blue carpet.
Just a week inside Halloween in a 4,000 seat stadium featuring a turf field that was cornfield up until Kimball opened in 2009, the Jaguars ran out to Homecoming cheers in Bronco blue and orange and BCS-busted the Valley Oak League playoff picture with a chilling 35-14 upset of perennial power Oakdale.
And the Mustangs season of streaks and suspense that started in the shadow of last year’s state #2 runner-up and on the bitter side of back-to-back one-point thrillers that led to a blowout of a private school power before consecutive high-octane VOL clashes, took its strangest turn yet in a mystifying 60 minutes of domination at Don Nicholson stadium in Tracy that even had the winning side searching for the right words.
“We don’t know how to react to this victory,” Kimball athletic director Steve Thorton, who also opened West High in 1996, said. “Our team doesn’t know how to win these games.”
Early in the first quarter that saw both teams fumble without turnovers, Kimball tailback Gaige Allen shot through the hole and to the outside, Forest Gumping it 91 yards down the left sideline for the first of his touchdowns on the half and the rest was a runaway for the wildcard Jaguars who improved to 4-4 with the program’s biggest win.
“We want to be Oakdale,” Jaguars coach Charles Spikes said. “We’ve studied their offense at coaching clinics and we have so much respect for Coach Merzon and his staff.”
Allen, a 5-8, 165 pound rail-thin senior who doubles up at defensive back and also fields punts, stretched the secondary and stressed out the Mustangs coaches with lengthy runs for four quarters. He had 21 carries, often side-stepping several pursuers and stretching the chains for a few more yards before finally being brought down by a gang of Mustangs.
By the second half, Allen was limping to the huddle after hard shots from Landon Ichord, Broderick Medrano, Bryden McAndrews and Bailey Dryden.
The Mustangs, after back to back pressure packed home games, hit a collective wall and short-circuited after early drives sputtered against a rapidly improving Kimball team that had beef on both sides of the ball, with Allen inflicting the most damage, gashing the Mustangs for 165 yards and three touchdowns. With Kimball’s first playoff berth on the line he and the Jaguars never blinked against an Oakdale team that fell behind 14-0 and tried to claw their way back into it, but just didn’t have enough time or answers to make the comeback.
Mustang standout Brock Whiting, with the exception of two late scores, couldn’t find much room to run, and Darus Nelson also seemed to run without his usual certainty and burst of speed.
“Hold your heads highs,” one Oakdale player said near the end of the game. “Act like a winner even if we didn’t … don’t hang em’.”
Mustang players ran through to the last whistle and even hustled afterwards to the endzone for their postgame meeting, baffled by the loss to upstart Kimball.
“They’re who we want to become,” Spikes said. “I’ve traveled to Reno and many other places to listen to Coach Merzon’s speeches.”
And the Mustangs coach had another one afterward for his team.
“We were unprepared from the moment we got off the bus,” Merzon said. “I told another coach during warm-ups that we weren’t ready to play and I have to do a better job getting us prepared.”
Oakdale must regroup and can get healthy in a hurry this week; the Mustangs catch 1-7 Lathrop, welcoming them to The Corral for Senior Night, which will be the final home game for players in the Class of 2014.
The ride to the rival up the hill – Sonora – also got a whole lot more interesting for the Mustangs, as they look to make a late season push into the playoffs.
Resurgent Sonora, who after opening the season 0-5, have strung off three straight dominating wins over league pushovers and have a chance to play spoiler to the Mustangs playoff chances in the last game of the 2013 regular season.