Making the trip from Brentwood to the Cowboy Capital of the World, the Liberty Lions came in to the Corral for a visit this past Friday night, Aug. 30. Liberty, led by University of Oregon-bound quarterback Jay Butterfield, had to withstand a total team effort from the Mustangs, who nearly pulled off the upset bid. Liberty is currently ranked number 19 in the state; Oakdale is ranked 178th.
When the clock hit 0:00 it was the visitors who walked off the field victorious, 19-14, holding off the determined Oakdale squad.
A scoreless first quarter set up an exciting second quarter as Oakdale scored the first points of the game. Leo Ayala rushed into the end zone from eight yards out to give the Mustangs a 7-0 advantage with 11 minutes to play in the half. Ayala finished the night with 21 carries for 135 yards and the touchdown. Liberty countered with a touchdown pass from Butterfield to Darrion Bartley from three yards out to tie the game with 6:03 remaining in the half. With just 40 seconds remaining in the half, Cameron Snow used every muscle in his body to stretch across the goal line for the score to give Oakdale a 14-7 lead.
The home team would take that lead into the locker room.
“I told them just to keep grinding and let’s see how this turns out;” Mustangs coach Trent Merzon said on the halftime momentum.
However, Liberty would shut out the Mustangs in the second half. Both of the second half Liberty touchdowns came in the third quarter when Butterfield connected with Leo Reichhold from six yards and later in the quarter on a 58-yard strike from Butterfield to Bartley with 2:35 left in the quarter.
“The screen pass was what did us in tonight, I think,” Mustangs two-way player Snow said.
In his first start on varsity, Nico Villegas delivered a huge hit that got the home sidelines and stands on their collective feet early in the first half. Also on defense, Peyton Bradford had a fumble recovery in the first half. Snow had a sack and a fumble recovery.
Oakdale had many opportunities to get the win. With 10:50 remaining in the game, Zeke Saffar attempted a run on fourth-and-3 from the Liberty 29. Saffar was stopped shy of the first down to turn the ball over. Later in the quarter, Oakdale was faced with a fourth-and-1 from the Liberty 21 but a false start moved them back to the 26. Saffar was given the ball once again and was hit in the backfield for a loss. Saffar finished the game with 23 carries for 124 yards.
Two plays later, Liberty fumbled the ball and Rylan Kerr jumped on the loose ball for a recovery with four minutes remaining at the Liberty 28-yard line. Oakdale was faced with fourth-and-goal from the six with 1:24 remaining. Sophomore quarterback Jackson Holt attempted a pass but it was broken up on what turned out to be the final play of the game.
“I’m proud of what we accomplished tonight. I think people that were here tonight will remember more of our effort more so than we lost,” noted Merzon. “We answered questions tonight. Questions about our toughness, our ability and more. This is a special team and tonight’s loss doesn’t necessarily change that, if anything it brought the team closer.”
The Mustangs look to bounce back when they travel to Aptos to take on the Mariners in a Friday, Sept. 6 contest with a scheduled 7:30 p.m. kickoff.