They were bigger and they were faster, but Oakdale High was brilliant.
The Mustang football team overcame physical disadvantages against a talented and explosive American Canyon team with superb play calls and passionate efforts to overcome the No. 4 seed Wolves with a 42-19 victory on Friday at The Corral. The semifinal win propels Oakdale to an incredible third straight trip to the Sac-Joaquin Section finals.
“We don’t get to stop and enjoy things around here, but tonight we can enjoy this one,” Oakdale coach Trent Merzon said afterwards. “Getting to three section finals in a row is amazing.”
The Mustangs trailed 13-7 with 10 minutes, 16 seconds remaining in the first half, but erupted for 35 unanswered points across the next 18 minutes of the game — and they looked good doing it.
After Oregon-bound Chris Seisay out-jumped Oakdale defensive backs on fourth down for a 23-yard score in the second quarter, Oakdale drove to American Canyon’s 12-yard line, where stuffed runs left the Mustangs with their own fourth down play.
It was then that Oakdale quarterback Spencer Thomas delivered a deceptive ‘Statue of Liberty’ handoff to Marcus Northcutt before rolling right with the momentum of the entire field. As defenders crashed towards Thomas, Northcutt sprinted into the open field for a stunning score with 5:22 remaining in the half.
When Tanner Morgan recovered a fumble four plays later, Nikk Ryan (18 carries, 73 yards) capitalized for his second score and made it a 21-13 Oakdale lead at the half.
After a long Marcus Northcutt return to open the third, Thomas hit a wide open Austin Jones on a 33-yard strike to extend the lead. When Adam Olsen recovered AC’s fumble on the ensuing kick, Oakdale drove just 26 yards to land Ryan’s third touchdown run just three minutes into the half.
American Canyon quarterback Michael Rapacon was intercepted by DeWayne Finney three plays later, leading to Oakdale’s final and most exciting score with 6:04 to play in the third. American Canyon’s stout defense forced a fourth down on their 19-yard line, but they weren’t prepared for a clever reverse pass from Jones to Thomas along the right sideline.
Siesay broke loose on a 43-yard touchdown catch three plays later, but Finney’s second interception and his defense of a fourth down pass to Seisay ended the final two possessions from a three-year American Canyon program that ended its first season with seniors at 11-2 with a 505-229 scoring advantage over opponents.
“It’s a team effort,” Finney said afterwards. “I credit the defensive line for helping me out and forcing those throws.
“It feels amazing to be in this situation.”
Northcutt finished with 61 yards on 20 carries while Thomas sprinted for 41 yards on eight rushes and was 6 of 7 for 108 yards from the helm. Oakdale allowed Siesay to compile 90 yards on five catches but shut down American Canyon star rusher Jomon Dotson, who managed just 52 yards on 15 carries. Dotson entered the game ranked first in the section and 11th in the state in rushing yards according to maxpreps.com.
The heavily recruited junior is one of several American Canyon players with the size and speed to rival some of the best Division I teams in the season. The production of imposing linemen Obinna Chinaka (6 foot 3 inches, 300 pounds), Yacoub Hammoudeh (6-3, 255) and Jonathan Bade (6-6, 240) also proved an obstacle for the Mustangs.
But the play-calling of Merzon and defensive coordinator Hondo Arpoika seemed near perfect.
“We knew it was going to be an unbelievable challenge every play,” Merzon said. “I mean look at them. When it’s all said and done they are going to have two kids in the PAC-10.
“We knew exactly what we were getting into.”