MANTECA -- Ty Malone and Miko Arpoika fumbled the handshake, a series of misfires and confused looks.
Spencer Thomas and Bastian Jimenez got it right a soaring high-five with a follow through.
Meanwhile, Nikk Ryan found himself under the arm of a gray-haired Mustang fan, who blessed the burly fullback with a nickname.
"The Mule, huh," Ryan said. "I guess so."
No matter which form it took, Oakdale earned the right to celebrate on Friday evening. The Mustangs' Valley Oak League title defense got off to a rip-roaring start with a 49-7 victory over Sierra at Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium.
Ryan rushed for three touchdowns, Thomas was dynamic under center and the defense shut down Anthony Cota in a victory that should send chills through the VOL.
And it's just Week 1.
Oakdale flexed its muscles from the opening kickoff, scoring on seven of its first eight possessions, turning this showdown into a red-and-black showcase.
"Congratulations to Oakdale," Sierra coach Jeff Harbison said. "They took it to us. The physicality
the tempo. Those are two things we can't duplicate in practice."
Thomas was 4-of-6 passing for 118 yards and two touchdowns, each first-quarter strikes to Austin Jones and Landen Ichord. He also had 115 yards on the ground, including four carries of 10 yards or more.
Ryan earned his nickname, gutting Sierra's interior defense for 136 yards on 20 carries. He had scoring runs of 3, 11 and 11 yards.
Marcus Northcutt also had two touchdowns for Oakdale (1-0 VOL, 3-1), which has won two straight since a lopsided loss to Southern California power Oceanside on Aug. 31.
"It's Valley Oak League time," Mustangs coach Trent Merzon said. "It's time to roll. I liked our approach tonight."
The game finished under a running clock, and couldn't end soon enough for the Timberwolves and Cota. The loss was Sierra's first in four games.
"There are seven games in the VOL, and you got to play Oakdale at some point," said Harbison, his club shut out over the final three quarters.
"Games like this reveal character and we'll see how the kids react."
Cota returned to this rivalry with high hopes, but left limping.
A year ago he was knocked from this game with a broken arm after rushing for more than 100 yards in the first quarter and helping Sierra to an early 14-10 lead.
Without their star, the Timberwolves couldn't sustain. Oakdale rallied to win 45-14, and Sierra, well ...
Sierra lost two of its next three games and failed to make the playoffs.
Cota spent extra time in the gym and film room in the offseason, preparing himself for this fall's rendezvous.
Oakdale, it seems, did its homework, too.
The Mustangs limited Cota to 47 yards on 15 carries and watched him limp off the field with a few minutes left in a game long over.
Cota did score Sierra's only touchdown, turning a short pass from Guillermo Nunez into a 79-yard score in the first quarter.
"Cota is the best back in the district," Thomas said, showering praise on his opponent, "and our defense did a great job on him."
Cota might be the best running back in the Stanislaus District, but he wasn't the most electric player on the field Friday night.
No, that was Thomas, who kept Sierra off kilter with the play-action pass.
He connected with Jones and Ichord on back-to-back possessions in the first quarter as Oakdale jumped to a 21-7 lead.
Later, he turned in the play of the game: A catch-me-if-you-can 48-yard run that stretched sideline to sideline.
Thomas bounced the designed run outside and played Frogger with the stream of blue chasing him.
A linebacker ripped at the tail of his jersey only to pull back air.
A defensive back stepped in Thomas' path near midfield, but a hard cut grounded him into the turf like a tent stake.
If it weren't for an illegal tackle on the opposite sideline, Thomas would have been celebrating six points.
"Statement," Merzon said. "The most electric player on the field tonight was wearing No. 1."
From opening kickoff to the postgame high-five.