On a cold and crisp early November evening, the Oakdale High School Mustangs football team earned a hard fought 38-28 road playoff win over Will C. Wood. In a game where penalties and turnovers affected each team, it was the fifth seeded Mustangs edging the host fourth seeded Wildcats in Vacaville. This was the first playoff game at the newly constructed stadium.
The Mustangs began the game on defense and earned a turnover on downs during the Wildcats first possession of the contest. From their first play from scrimmage, senior running back Caleb Kuppens burned the Wildcats on a 43-yard rushing touchdown to put Oakdale ahead. Minutes later the Wildcats tied the game on a one-yard rushing score from Derriyon Jack. Oakdale’s Max Moore then cashed in on his first of three touchdowns on the night with 40 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Moore found the end zone for the second time on a short two-yard carry with 7:17 left in the half. Oakdale looked to put away the Wildcats by going for it on fourth-and-goal from the three but came up short at the one-yard line. Following the turnover on downs, Will C. Wood’s Adonis Dennis gashed the Mustang defense for a 99-yard rushing touchdown to make it 21-14. Oakdale kicker Dom McDonald connected on a 24-yard field goal with one second left in the half, giving Oakdale a 24-14 halftime lead.
In the third quarter the only score came from a strip fumble as Oakdale’s Devin Murphy caught a pass from quarterback Hayden Knittel and turned up field. Upon contact with the defender, Murphy was headed to the turf but the ball was stripped out of his hands and into the arms of Isaac Pewit for a 42-yard touchdown the other way to make it 24-21 with 9:50 left to play in the third.
The fourth quarter saw the Mustangs outscore the Wildcats 14-7 to advance in the playoffs. For the final time of the evening, Moore crossed the goal line on a one-yard rush with 9:24 left to play.
Moore finished the night with a total of 103 yards rushing on 28 carries.
With 4:41 remaining in the game, Zeke Saffar turned up field for a 25-yard touchdown to give Oakdale a 38-21 advantage. Seconds later the Wildcats scored the final points of the night on a 43 yard catch and run from Yahya Algere with 4:26 left in regulation.
“It’s tough to win on the road. You know, people assume that you’re the underdog when you’re the road team, or the lower seeded team, but I tell you we answered the call tonight,” said Oakdale head coach Trent Merzon. “That (Wood) is a good football team, but tonight we just made more plays than they did. I’m proud of the way our boys conducted themselves in a physical road playoff game.”
The Wildcats had opportunities in the game, but shot themselves in the foot. Three unsportsmanlike conduct penalties against their defense set up 14 Oakdale points. The Mustangs’ defense made life miserable at times for the host team as the defensive line applied pressure throughout the night. Issac Valero, Peyton Bradford, Cameron Snow and Misael Becerra all made key tackles and sacks in the game. The defense also forced four turnovers as Becerra, Snow and Cameron Burke each had a fumble recovery. Burke also sealed the win for Oakdale when he intercepted the ball on the final drive for the Wildcats with eight seconds left.
“It was a good night for us overall. I just wanted to help our team anyway I could tonight,” Burke said.
With the win Oakdale will have to travel once again as they head off Friday, Nov. 16 to face Rio Linda, which won in a barnburner, 77-63 over Pacheco.