The Mustang varsity football team lost a hard-fought game to the Central Catholic Raiders on Friday, Oct. 1 by a 32-14 final. It was the second consecutive Valley Oak League loss for the Mustangs, not something the Oakdale faithful is accustomed to seeing.
“Too many mistakes; first back to back losses since 2005,” said head coach Trent Merzon. “Teams that beat us, though, are a combined 11-1.”
The Mustangs took the opening kickoff and promptly fumbled the first snap from scrimmage on their own 20-yard line. The opportunistic Raiders took just two plays to score on a pass play from quarterback Tyler Wentworth to Mario Savala. The Mustangs answered back on a nine-play, 80 yard drive, with senior Yahir Ayala scoring on a 35-yard run to knot the score at 7-7. Following an exchange of punts, Central Catholic bogged down on a drive and settled for a field goal by Anthony Wildenberg, making the score 10-7.
The defensive battle intensified in the second quarter with some hard-hitting play and an outstanding 55 yard, coffin-corner punt by Mustang Kevin Camelin that came to rest on the Raider 1-yard line. Eight plays later, Mustang senior Zack Stott intercepted a Wentworth pass. Taking over at their own 45 yard line, the Mustangs drove 55 yards on nine plays with Ayala scoring his second touchdown of the evening with a 1-yard plunge.
At the end of the first half the Mustangs led the Raiders by the score of 14-10. During the first half, Ayala led all rushers with 100 yards followed by Mustang junior Jace Rau with 51 yards and Central Catholic’s Tyler Jacklich with 25 yards. Overall, the Mustangs had 157 yards rushing and 38 yards passing in the first half as opposed to 53 total yards by the Raiders.
A quite different story emerged in the second half, however, which was dominated by Central Catholic and its behemoth front line. The Raiders, who had won the coin toss and deferred option to the second half, took the half’s opening kickoff and drove 79 yards on 14 plays with workhorse fullback Aiden Taylor pounding it in for the touchdown, making the score 17-14. The Mustangs’ first possession of the second half resulted in a safety as quarterback Jackson Holt, having to scramble while attempting a pass, fumbled in the end zone. The Mustangs recovered resulting in a 2-point safety for the Raiders.
Per football rules, the Mustangs were then required to punt or kick off to the Raiders from their own 20. Kevin Camelin kicked off for Oakdale and, despite taking the ball at the Oakdale 45, the Raiders were forced to punt. The Mustangs took the ball at their own 2 yard line and were able to advance the ball out to their own 35 yard line, mostly on the strength of a pass from Holt to Jack Kjeldgaard. Three penalties and tough defensive line play by the Raiders eventually stymied the Mustang drive and they were forced to punt. The Raiders took the punt at their own 38 yard line and drove 62 yards for the score. Once again, hard-hitting fullback Taylor carried the ball seven out of nine plays on the drive and eventually scored on an 8-yard plunge. A two-point conversion attempt by the Raiders failed, making the score 25-14. Still within reach of victory, the Mustangs started their next drive on their own 20. Passes to Kjeldgaard and Mickey Merzon got the ball out to the Mustang 38. On third down and nine, Holt’s pass caromed off his receiver into the waiting hands of Raider Roland Brown, who returned the ball to the Oakdale 4. Two plays later, the Raiders scored and, following the extra point, led the Mustangs 32-14, which would end up as the final score.
“We had ball in the fourth quarter with the chance for a lead,” Merzon said, but they were unable to take advantage of the opportunity and suffered the tough loss. “Huge size disadvantage; the kids played hard, just not well.”
In the JV game, Central Catholic overwhelmed the Mustang Colts 35-7, with the lone Colt score coming late in the fourth quarter. Kayden Anderson led the Colt attack with 98 yards rushing, most of which came in the second half.
Head coach Chris Lawrence has seen his team put together some strong efforts, playing to a 4-0-1 mark this season.
Week 1 was a 48-0 win over Edison, followed by a 12-0 victory over Spanish Springs. They defeated Hughson 40-14 and then tied Valley Oak League rival East Union, 8-8. Their Week 5 match was a 42-14 win over Kimball.
“We have been hot and cold on offense. Mental mistakes and turnovers slowed us against East Union,” Lawrence said. “At times this year, we have looked good. When we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot, we move the ball well. When we focus and take care of the little things, we have a lot of potential.”
Defense is similar, the coach noted, as they look fast and disciplined at times but must get better on third down situations. He also said they focus on tackling in practice, as that was an area of concern early in the season.
“Overall, for a group of kids that didn’t play football, or any other sports for the most part, in eighth grade, they are coming along,” Lawrence added. “We have a great offensive coordinator in Rod Long. We also have an outstanding line coach in Zack Quaccia. Our defensive backs are all playing well as of late too. They are coached by Zach Thomas.”
Editor’s Note: Varsity football statistics were provided courtesy of Steve Knell.