Judging the downtrodden faces of players on Oakdale High’s varsity football team, you would have thought the Mustangs were pummeled during Saturday’s West Coast Showcase against Granite Bay at Dublin High.
Little evidence was to be found that Division IV underdogs, Oakdale, had just pushed one of the top DII programs in the state to a nail-biting 31-28 Grizzlies victory.
Mustang coach Trent Merzon easily explained his teams’ disheartened demeanor.
“We didn’t come here for a moral victory,” Merzon said. “Our kids believed in themselves that they could win this football game, and I am very proud of them. They played their butts off.”
Oakdale led 21-14 at the half and reclaimed the lead with just 1 minute, 49 seconds to play, when fullback Marcus Hernandez busted into the Granite Bay end zone from two yards out.
But Granite Bay mounted a 10-play drive to the Oakdale seven, earning 15 yards on a failed third down conversion when officials ruled an Oakdale defender had struck a Granite Bay blocker below the knees.
The penalty gave the Grizzlies a convenient stoppage of time, and set up Brendan Keeney for a seven-yard touchdown pass with just 39 seconds to play in the final quarter.
Oakdale began a quick drive up field with Spencer Thomas’ 18-yard sideline strike to Braydon Stephens, but the next four plays turned sour and Oakdale lost possession with 12 seconds remaining in the contest.
Hernandez, who exploded onto the varsity scene with 26 bruising rushes for 120 yards and three touchdowns, showed little signs of the post-game enthusiasm you would expect from a breakout player in his first varsity game in pads.
“I’m not happy with the way this ended,” Hernandez said. “I wanted to come out and show what I could do, but it’s tough to lose like that.”
Oakdale entered as heavy underdogs after a one-sided loss to Turlock and Granite Bay’s one-score defeat to state power St. Mary’s.
Grizzly coach, Ernie Cooper, said he expected a good game from the program that gave him two tough matches in 1999 and 2000.
“I told our guys this was going to be a tough one,” Cooper said. “Oakdale gave us everything we could handle and then some.”
Mustang runners pounded out 261 yards on the ground, paced by 82 from Marcus Northcutt and 50 more from Daniel Linder (20 yards receiving). Thomas completed five of 10 passes for 35 yards.
Oakdale took a surprising halftime lead when a five-yard Hernandez touchdown was followed by a crushing tackle from A.C. Brown that surrendered a Grizzly fumble on Granite Bay’s own 20-yard line. Thomas hit Linder on a deceptive seven-yard touchdown pass in the flat with only 18 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
Oakdale (1-2) has a week off before traveling to Sierra (1-2) on Sept. 24 for the Valley Oak League opener.
There was no JV game this week and the Oakdale freshmen fell in a home contest on Thursday.