Following their difficult road loss to Archbishop Mitty a week ago, Oakdale loaded the bus for another road trip this past Friday night. The Mustangs traveled to Merced Junior College to take on the Gauchos of El Capitan on Aug. 31 and though they struggled in the first half, they came out of the tunnel focused and motivated in the second half and got the win, 33-6.
The Mustangs (0-0, 2-1) and Gauchos (0-0, 0-3) battled through a scoreless first quarter and each team’s offense continued to struggle in the second quarter. Max Moore scored the first points of the game on a short one-yard run to give Oakdale a 6-0 advantage with 7:39 left in the half. Moore finished the night with 20 carries for 110 yards rushing. With less than a minute remaining in the half, El Capitan tied the game on a 20-yard rush by quarterback Jacob Tanori setting up a 6-6 halftime score.
In the first half Oakdale failed to convert on fourth down twice, once inside the red zone; then had two turnovers via fumbles.
“It was a bad first half, uncharacteristic of us. But we need to work on those things otherwise it will be a long season,” said Mustangs head coach Trent Merzon.
The second half Oakdale got back to their identity; grind out the ball using the Wing-T and wear down the opposing defense. Anthony “AJ” Martinez carried the ball 17 times for 117 yards to lead Oakdale on the ground. Martinez scored the first points of the second half on a five-yard carry with 7:25 left in the quarter.
Five minutes later sophomore running back Zeke Saffar scored on a nine-yard rush to boost the Mustangs lead to 20-6. Saffar finished with 63 rushing yards and a touchdown.
In the fourth quarter Oakdale scored two touchdowns, both on the ground. Caleb Kuppens found the end zone on a seven-yard carry early in the fourth quarter and Leo Ayala scored on an eight-yard rush to cap off the night. Ayala finished with 96 rushing yards in the game.
On the defensive side of the ball, Oakdale played physical most of the night. Big hits by Eric DeGraff, Trevor Smith and Peyton Bradford punished the home team and shut them out in the second half. Bradford had three and a half sacks in the game.
“We came out motivated and determined in the second half, but honestly we should have played like that all four quarters,” Bradford said.
This Friday night, Sept. 7, Oakdale welcomes out of state guests, Chaparral to The Corral. Chaparral (0-0, 1-1) will travel from Parker, Colorado to take on the Mustangs. The Wolverines are coming off an 18-10 home win over Rocky Mountain. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.