The names Oscar Barajas, Jacob Guignard, Ty Benevides, Zander Espinoza and Jack Leonard aren’t ones that are typically highlighted in articles about the Oakdale Mustang varsity football team. On Friday, Nov. 19 in the Oakdale Corral, however, the Patterson Tiger defense got to know those individuals quite well as the host team took a 33-7 victory.
The five players make up the Mustang offensive line, under the tutelage of long-time position coach Gary Osmundson, and they dominated a very good Patterson defense in the Sac-Joaquin Section, Division III semi-final game. Behind the offensive line, the Mustangs rolled up 543 total yards, including 419 yards rushing and 124 yards passing in defeating the Central California Conference champion Tigers 33-7.
After winning the coin toss and electing to receive to begin the game, the Tigers had Mustang fans worried, as on the second play from scrimmage, quarterback Jacob Guevarra completed a 51-yard pass to Austin Lucas taking the ball deep into Mustang territory. But then the Oakdale defense, certainly just as impressive as the offense, dug in and limited the visiting Tigers to only 6 yards in the next three plays. Following a 5-yard false start penalty giving Patterson a fourth down and 9 situation, head coach Rob Cozart called on his placekicker, Johan Mendoza to try a 41-yard field goal. To the relief of Mustang fans, the kick sailed left of the uprights and the Mustangs took over first and ten from their own 20.
At that point, senior quarterback Jackson Holt and company went to work behind the aforementioned offensive line going 80 yards on six plays for the opening score of the game. Head coach, Trent Merzon, surprised many of the nearly 3,000 people in attendance by having the 6-foot, 6-inch Holt carry the ball on the first Mustang play from scrimmage. The senior picked up 10 yards on the carry and then completed a 12-yard pass to senior wide receiver Jack Kjeldgaard. Four plays later, junior wingback Jace Rau raced around left end for a big 45-yard gain down to the Patterson 5. Senior workhorse tailback Kevin Camelin ended the scoring drive with a 5-yard run for the score and then kicked the extra point for a 7-0 Mustang lead.
The hard-hitting Mustang defense under defensive coordinator Garrett Martin (OHS, Class of 2010) then went to work causing the Tigers to go three and out on two incomplete passes and a rush that netted a loss of a yard. Following Mendoza’s punt to the Patterson 41, the Mustang offensive line sprung into action once again as the home team drove 41 yards on eight rushing plays, with Merzon alternating Camelin, senior Dalton Vargas, junior Garrison Gerber, and Rau with carries. Gerber scored on a 2-yard plunge and Camelin converted the extra point for a 14-0 lead.
The Tigers were not through, however, as they marched into Mustang territory, primarily on the strength of a 45-yard pass from Guevarra to Javier Huizar. But the stingy defensive line and linebacking corps of the Mustangs stymied any further Patterson attempts at gaining yards and, after bogging down at the Oakdale 36, Mendoza missed a 52-yard field goal attempt that fell far short of the goalposts. On the ensuing drive the Mustangs drove deep into Tiger territory only to have a Jackson Holt pass (11-for-16 with two touchdowns and one interception) picked off in the endzone by Huizar. Mustang fans had a collective heart-stopping moment during that drive, just before the end of the first quarter as Holt, running around left end, had his helmet ripped off his head by a Patterson player and was gang tackled while bare headed. Fortunately, Holt was uninjured and the Tigers were hit with a 15-yard personal foul, face mask penalty. The Tiger interception went for naught, however, as the Mustang defense again caused a three and out result. The Mustangs took over at the Patterson 35 following a short Mendoza punt.
Merzon next patiently engineered a 10-play drive, mixing runs by Gerber, Camelin, Vargas and senior Mason Gilton, with passes from Holt to Kjeldgaard and junior Mick Merzon. The drive culminated in a 10-yard touchdown pass to Merzon. The extra point sailed wide to the left, but the Mustangs were definitely in control with around seven minutes left in the first half. Following the kickoff, the one bright moment of the game for Patterson came when the swift and elusive Guevarra ripped off a 65-yard touchdown run for the lone Tiger score in the game. With the extra point the Tigers trailed the Mustangs 20-7. Starting at their own 20, the Mustangs marched all the way down the field, literally 79 yards, 2 feet and 10 inches, only to be stopped on a Holt dive on fourth down with seconds remaining in the first half.
The second half opened with the Mustangs taking the kickoff and driving 81 yards on 13 plays, again mixing runs by Camelin, Holt, Rau, Vargas, and Gerber with a 17-yard pass from Holt to Jack Kjeldgaard and a 5-yard scoring pass to Mick Merzon (his second of the game), making the score, following Camelin’s extra point, 27-7. Most of the Mustang runs were over center and guard, right up the gut, noticeably wearing down the Patterson line, many of whom played both offense and defense in the game. That fatigue caused by the hard-hitting Mustang offense and defense became quite apparent in the next two Patterson possessions, which were both three and out ending with punts.
In the waning moments of the third quarter, the Mustangs put an exclamation point on their domination of the Tigers with a 49-yard, six-play drive that resulted in Camelin’s second touchdown of the evening on an 18-yard run. Once again, the Mustang drive included short runs intermixed with a Holt pass to Kjeldgaard, setting up the final run by Camelin. The Mustang attempt at a two-point conversion was stopped by the Tigers, ending the scoring for the evening at 33-7.
Still, the Tigers were not finished and fought back mostly on the arm of Guevarra, marching into the Mustang red zone only to be thwarted by a Jake Kettering interception, which he returned to the 29-yard line. The interception was the third in two games for the Mustang senior. At that point, the Mustangs took over and drove the ball down to the Patterson 2 with Garrison Gerber grinding out 44 yards on five carries in the drive. With under two minutes left in the game and the Mustangs once again knocking on the Tiger door at the 2-yard line, head coach Merzon demonstrated a level of sportsmanship apropos of a semi-final playoff game against a very good opponent that had simply been outplayed on both sides of the ball, by having Holt kneel on the final two plays of the game to run out the clock.
To further demonstrate the Mustang dominance in this game, not only did the Mustangs roll up 33 points, but they were also knocking on the door inside the Tiger red zone three additional times during the game. Again, led by the offensive line, the Mustangs tallied 543 yards in total offense, 419 by rushing and 124 by passing. Tailback Camelin led all rushers with 128 yards, followed by the hard-hitting fullbacks, senior Vargas with 92 and junior Gerber with 78 respectively, junior wingback Rau with 86, senior Gilton with 11 yards and senior quarterback Holt with 24. On the receiving end, senior Kjeldgaard caught five passes for 69 yards and junior Merzon caught five passes for 58 yards and two touchdowns.
The Mustangs will next play Valley Oak League rival, the Manteca Buffaloes in the Sac Joaquin Section, Division III final on Friday night, at St. Mary’s High School in Stockton.
Derek Gustafson contributed statistics to this article. Gustafson will take over as the public address announcer for the Mustangs next year as 21-year PA announcer Pete Simoncini is retiring from teaching and announcing at the end of this school year.