The 35-14 gap between Oakdale and Aptos High on the post-game scoreboard did little to create space between DeWayne Finney and his thoughts as he stood among his teammates and fielded questions following his breakout defensive performance on Friday.
“It’s a brotherhood… the best I’ve ever known and the best I ever will know,” Finney said slowly.
Not many players were awash with emotion after a one-sided game where the Mustangs bested their Central Coast opposition, but Finney was an exception.
The 6 foot, 2 inch defensive back and wide receiver missed all of 2011 after an offseason surgery left him absent from the football field. He returned for 2012 and showed something special in his second game at The Corral.
Aptos threatened to score and come within a touchdown on the first play of the second quarter, when senior running back Aaron McAnerney dashed out wide on a sweep and suddenly lofted a halfback pass into the end zone.
Finney, who had stuck with his receiver throughout the play, leaped into the air at Oakdale’s own goal line and hauled down his second interception in six minutes. Since he came down at the one yard line, Finney broke left, then right, then left again before finally crashing out of bounds16 yards up field as a flock of Aptos players rallied together to stop his zigzagging return.
In hindsight, Finney knows he should have just ended the play sooner, but the senior is making the most of his opportunities in 2012, and his second pick of the night was one more chance.
“Just about everybody on the team told me to go down after an interception,” Finney said with a laugh. “I just got to work on running off the field after a play like that.”
Finney’s first interception gave Oakdale the ball at midfield when a long pass from Aptos quarterback Alex Joh fell into his arms on third and eight with 5:03 remaining in the opening quarter. Oakdale already had a 14-0 lead at that point, as Austin Jones hauled in a 34-yard scoring toss on the first drive and Nikk Ryan bullied in from a yard out three minutes later. The second score was set up by Aptos’ second of three straight interceptions (this one to Tanner Morgan) to end their drives.
The Mariners threatened to score at the start of the second after a 58-yard fly sweep found Elijah Marta of Aptos on a long sideline jaunt. It was one of only two plays over eight yards that Aptos would snare against a tenacious first-team Oakdale defense (the other was a 14-yard pass four plays later).
Oakdale scored with 7:22 to play in the second quarter on a 10-yard burst from Josh Watts to take a 21-0 lead at the half. It only got worse for Aptos in the third, as Ryan (two-yard score) and Tyler Williams (18-yard score) made it 35-0 with 53 seconds remaining in the period.
Oakdale’s second-team defense would surrender a 65-yard touchdown run to McAnerney early in the fourth and a five yard score from Joey Aliotti with 24 seconds left in the game, against a running clock.
“We ran into a buzz saw,” Aptos coach Randy Blankenship said afterwards. “They had a lot of returners coming back and they are a good football team. They kind of wore us down a bit in the first half.”
Blankenship, a former NFL High School Coach of the Year, Southern California Coach of the Year and Northern California Coach of the Year was impressed with his trip to Oakdale.
“I told the kids this is football,” Blankenship said. “They had more people in the stands for their JV game than we do for our homecoming.
“I’d rather play a team like this and lose than play somebody we will beat 50-0. They exposed some things and I love it.”
Oakdale coach Trent Merzon wasn’t oblivious to Blankenship’s credentials.
“It gets your juices flowing as a coach when you see one of the greatest coaches to ever coach high school football in this area,” Merzon said. “Anytime you have an opportunity to play against him you had better be dialed in and have an answer.
“And I thought our kids did a super job tonight.”
Oakdale outgained Aptos 285-220 on total offensive yards. The Mustangs ran for 226 yards while Aptos took 170 on the ground. Marcus Northcutt led Oakdale with 72 yards on 17 rushes while Watts (10-46), Williams (3-38), Max Stevens (3-31), Ryan (6-21) and Bailey Dryden (4-19) made the most of touches.
Thomas ran for 10 yards and was 4 of 9 for 59 yards from the helm.
Oakdale has a week off and plays host Sierra to open the Valley Oak League on Sept. 21.
Oakdale beat Aptos 42-6.
Darus Nelson rumbled in from 15 yards out with 24 seconds to play to lift Oakdale to a thrilling 31-27 win over St. Mary’s on Thursday.
“Players made big plays we needed,” Oakdale coach Steve Jericoff said. “Defense played much better in the second half and it was a great team effort.”
Oakdale trailed 14-0 early but rebounded on a 60-yard fumble recovery score by Nelson. Isaac Moreno connected for a 30-yard scoring pass to Robert Bagley. Nelson scored to give Oakdale the lead, but an Oakdale field goal from Lane Trapp (30 yards) left Oakdale trailing St. Mary’s with two minutes to go and 70 yards to eclipse. The Nelson score put Oakdale on top for good.