The three-letter chant echoed across Dunleavy Field and nestled harmoniously in the ears of 11 active Oakdale High players and another 32 strewn about the visiting sidelines.
“V-O-L! V-O-L! V-O-L!”
Though just three letters, the Valley Oak League acronym spelled so much more for Mustang players, coaches and fans after a 42-7 stomping of host Sonora on Friday.
The win locked a perfect 10-0 regular season, the No. 1 seed into the Division III Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs and sole rights to Oakdale’s fifth consecutive conference title.
“We talked about coming in tonight and playing our last football game of the year,” Oakdale coach Trent Merzon said afterwards. “We are going to worry about playoffs on Monday, but we just wanted to come in tonight and play our last football game, and I thought our kids did that.”
Sonora had the ball at Oakdale’s 23 yard-line while chasing a two-score deficit with less than three minutes to play in the first half, but Manny Hernandez snagged an interception at Oakdale’s goal line to turn the tables.
Twelve plays and 95 yards later, a 28-yard sideline pass to Marcus Northcutt on fourth down gave Oakdale a three-touchdown lead with only two seconds to play in the second quarter.
When Justin Martin recovered a fumble seven minutes later and ran 18 yards for a touchdown on the ensuing play, it capped a 21-point third quarter rally and a 42-0 lead over the host Wildcats. Sonora would score in the fourth, but it couldn’t stop the ninth consecutive running clock (section mandated upon a 35-point fourth quarter lead) Oakdale has seen this season.
As Sonora reserves ran out the final minutes with a slow march to midfield, Merzon slyly told team ball boy Austin Manning to empty the jugs of water behind his own bench. When players expecting to host a post-game shower found the empty jugs, Merzon explained the reason for their dismay.
“We are young. We have 15 juniors and they don’t understand the game sometimes, and they were shocked to find out the water buckets were empty,” Merzon said. “I told them ‘this ain’t my first championship, this is your first championship.’
“So they improvised a bit and they found some other water.”
The other water was collected from team water bottles and dispersed amongst the crowd of players as Sonora lined up for one final rush. When the final whistle sounded, players emptied what they had at Merzon’s expense.
It was a cold shock on an already frigid night, but Merzon will take it every time if it comes with sole possession of the league title.
“Finally they get to celebrate something,” Merzon said. “Tonight it’s a VOL championship and I thought our kids did a great job.”
Oakdale outgained Sonora 321-228 with 284 rushing yards on 42 carries. Northcutt took 10 touches for 79 yards while Marcus Hernandez bullied to two touchdowns and 121 yards on 16 carries. Martin scored the game’s first touchdown from 26 yards out and added six perfect extra point attempts to his résumé.
Josh Watts ran for 26 yards and a score on six touches while Spencer Thomas went 2 of 8 for 37 yards from the helm.
The Oakdale junior varsity football team showed off their toughness and determination in another week of thrilling football with a late drive that nearly erased a Sonora lead in the fourth quarter. Things fell Sonora’s way after a quarterback sack sealed a 25-21 Wildcat win in the final moments.
“I thought we played a solid first half and gave ourselves an opportunity to take control of the game, but it was not to be for us as we could not overcome our miscues,” Oakdale coach Tin Meyer said. “Once they got the momentum we had a hard time stopping it.”
Coach Meyer said Darrin Powers played a strong game at his linebacker position while Tanner Morgan shined on both sides of the ball.
The Mustang freshmen capped a successful 8-2 season with a 51-8 victory over Sonora on Thursday. Frankie Trent showcased his best defensive game of the season with tenacious stops to lead the team. Christian Domingo scored the first touchdown of the game while Brock Whiting hauled in a touchdown pass from Dylan Farquhar.
“The offensive line did an amazing job all year giving Farquhar a lot of time to throw the ball,” Oakdale coach Steve Jericoff said. “It was a great overall team effort to finish the season.”
Robert Maderios and Max Stevens landed rushing touchdowns while Christian Alexander and Dominic Orvis also rolled to big first downs. Chad MacDonald ran 15 yards for the final score of the game.