SJS FOOTBALL FINALS
Section III Title Game
When: Friday, Dec. 2, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Sacramento State University
Who: Oakdale vs. Del Oro
Last Meeting: 21-0 Del Oro win in the 2010 SJS finals
After being scorned by Marcus Hernandez touchdowns on three occasions, Casa Roble High defenders crashed the line of scrimmage as he approached in search of another stop of the Oakdale running back with just over two minutes to play.
But Hernandez didn’t have the ball.
A crafty play fake from Oakdale quarterback Spencer Thomas forced a collective crash from the Rams’ defense, just long enough for Thomas to roll to his right and sprint to the home sideline. Casa Roble defenders quickly broke off in pursuit, but Thomas won the foot race and dove past outstretched tacklers for a touchdown with 2:04 left in the game.
A Justin Martin extra point forced The Corral scoreboard to display a 42-23 Oakdale lead for good, propelling Oakdale past Casa Roble in the semifinal round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs on Friday.
“They were coming down on power all night, so we ran outside and it was open,” Thomas said. “When I rounded the corner and I saw the end zone I knew I was going to have to run my butt off to get there.”
The Thomas keeper ended comeback hopes for a Rams team that twice led by 10 points in the first half and appeared to capture some momentum with a fourth quarter touchdown pass with 4:27 to play. The Rams recovered the ensuing onside kick, but couldn’t keep possession after officials ruled a Casa Roble player first touched the ball inside the 10-yard mark.
Oakdale got the ball and collected a big first down after carries by Marcus Northcutt at the edge of the line. A no-gain and a three-yard loss from Hernandez showed Oakdale coach Trent Merzon enough to call the brilliant bootleg run for Thomas.
“All calls that work are brilliant and all calls that don’t aren’t,” Merzon said. “I knew they were going to be jumping all over (Hernandez) and they did. They didn’t see Spencer and he is very athletic and he made a great play.”
The run was Oakdale’s last play from scrimmage and Casa Roble penalties and a short drive ran out the clock. Oakdale finished with 375 rushing yards to Casa’s 195. The Rams also threw for 270 yards, while starter Mitch Samson was 22 of 37 for 259 yards and three interceptions.
Samson was picked off by Eddie Machado at Oakdale’s 2-yard line on the first drive of the night, but Casa capitalized on the situation after a well-timed blitz forced a safety just over three minutes into the game.
Casa made it 10-0 after a six-play scoring drive and a two-point conversion two minutes later, but Oakdale fired back when Martin took a reverse to the house from 43 yards out with 5:41 to play in the quarter.
Martin pushed a 47-yard field goal wide left at the end of the first and watched Casa march 80 yards on 12 plays for a 17-7 Rams lead with 8:12 left in the first half.
Oakdale rebounded with a quick score (Northcutt 9-yard rush), but saw perhaps the best play of the game on Casa’s first snap of the ensuing drive. Samson rolled to his right and made a quick pass near his own sideline, but Oakdale defender Bastian Jimenez made a rolling catch on the end of a huge lunge in front of the arms of a Casa Roble receiver at the Rams’ 20-yard line.
Hernandez broke into the end zone three plays later for the first of three consecutive scores. He reached pay dirt from 9 yards out for a 28-17 lead at the half and scored a 1-yard touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter for an 18-point lead. The score came at the end of an eight-play drive that started after Martin landed an interception deep in Oakdale territory.
Martin had 56 rushing yards, deflected a big fourth down pass in Oakdale’s own end zone and finished with seven tackles.
“Casa Roble is definitely the best team we have played so far,” Martin said. “Their offense was dynamic and we had to make big tackles and big plays.
“We made some mistakes early and had to keep our heads in it and play our game.”
Jimenez and Hernandez also landed 10 tackles while Hondo Arpoika (eight tackles), C.J. Picinich (six tackles) and Manny Hernandez (six tackles) played tough to limit a powerful Casa Roble offense.
Thomas ran for 57 yards and connected for 24 yards on a 3 of 6 passing line. Northcutt ran 18 times for 143 yards while Marcus Hernandez landed 115 yards on 21 touches. Oakdale’s offense was outgained 465-399, but made huge plays to overcome an early deficit.
“Our kids have tremendous character and I thought tonight was a great test of who we are,” Merzon said. “That’s a great football team we just beat. They came in throwing haymakers and I am so proud of our kids to come back and show a little of what we are made of.”
Casa Roble coach Norman Ryan voiced his discontent with officials who he claimed blew kisses at a Rams player and then later ejected him, but gave Oakdale credit for the semifinal victory.
“When you come into The Corral you know it’s going to be tough,” he said. “I take nothing away from them. They are a good football team and they beat us.
“I just have a bad taste in my mouth right now.”