If Oakdale High senior Spencer Thomas isn't the Stanislaus District's greatest athlete, he's got to be near the top of any list. He has great skills in his three sports and, most importantly, the kid has shown he knows how to win a big game.
He's helped Oakdale to two Sac-Joaquin Section crowns in baseball and two trips to the section football title game. He's got four Valley Oak League titles in two years, and likely wins two more during his senior year.
He's become a magician running the Wing-T, despite the whirl of running backs and linemen that are criss-crossing in front of him.
Thomas showed Friday that he's capable of doing more than simply handing off, completing all five of his passes for 170 yards and two TDs in a 54-6 rout of East Union.
"I think I've gotten better on my reads, seeing how a defense reacts and then making the right pass," said Thomas, whose club has won five in a row since a 34-14 loss to SoCal power Oceanside. "I'll tell you this, my line was awesome. I didn't feel pressured at any time."
He had a 34-yard TD to Austin Jones and hit Dwayne Finney on a fade route for a 75-yard TD. He even caught a TD, lining up in the slot and hauling in a 30-yard pass from freshman Adam Olsen likely to be Oakdale's QB next fall.
Oakdale used three QBs in the rout and they were 11-of-11 for 275 yards and three scores, but it also ran for 353 yards with sophomore Max Stevens (123) topping the list.
"If people focus too much on our Wing-T, we've put in packages to give the defense a new look," said Thomas, a promising point guard before shifting his emphasis to his two other sports. "After this year, it's football I'll want to focus on. "
CLOCK'S TICKING With the preliminaries out of the way, the MMC waits four days to crown its champion: Downey (6-1, 3-0) plays Enochs (5-3, 4-0) Thursday night at Johansen, and there's much more at stake than just a league crown.
Both desperately need the win for playoffs: Downey risks a road opener if it falls, and Enochs is likely to have to visit the Division 1 seed if it doesn't win the MMC.
BUFFS ARE BACK Manteca might have saved its season when Alex Laurel grabbed a 23-yard TD pass from Joe Menzel, giving the Buffs a 27-20 lead with 27 seconds to play. The win leaves Manteca (4-3, 3-1) tied with Sierra (6-1, 3-1) for second in the VOL, though, Sierra beat the Buffs two weeks ago and has the tiebreaker for the second automatic playoff berth.
With six wins the magic number for the playoffs, and Oakdale and Sierra the front-runners for the two automatic berths, the loser of Friday's game was going to be in desperate straits. Sonora (3-4, 3-3) likely has to sweep Sierra, East Union and rival Oakdale to go on.
THUNDER CLAP Two games into the CCC, and Buhach Colony is the only 2-0 team. No reason to think the Thunder will be handed a loss, either, after dominating their two foes. A 28-7 win over Pitman was followed by a 42-21 win at Merced, as BC piled up 288 rushing yards in the first half and scored on five of its first six possessions.
Powerful Stefon Gold has become the CCC's top back after two weeks, with 323 yards and seven TDs in two wins.
RALLY TIME Shawn Downs rallied Turlock to a 28-14 win over Golden Valley, rushing for 171 and two TDs. He averaged 10 yards a carry, and threw for 89 and a TD.
The promising news for coach James Peterson is his junior QB is completing 57 percent, compared with 34 percent last year. He has 10 TDs throwing and 10 running.
Turlock (4-3, 1-1 CCC) finishes with Atwater, Buhach and Pitman 18-4 combined and likely has to win twice to make the playoffs.
NOW THERE'S ONE There were three perfect teams when the MLL opened two weeks ago, and now there is only Argonaut (7-0, 2-0) after it beat Summerville (6-1, 1-1) 20-14. Argonaut and Ripon are the only projected D4 teams that are perfect, and opponents' wins is the tiebreaker if both are 10-0.
Argo's foes have 37 wins, while Ripon's have 35 but Ripon has an edge in the seven-team TVL. It is assured three wins each of the next two weeks from its league rivals while Argonaut will get just two, closing that two-win gap.
The MLL has just six teams, so if Argo wins each week, only two other league teams can win. That shifts the focus to preseason: Each has four of those foes still playing.
MORE ... AND MOORE Beyer has solved its offensive issues by spotlighting Maury Moore, one of the region's best. He returned the opening kickoff 99 yards and his three TDs put Beyer up 20-0 on the way to a 47-12 rout of Johansen.
PLAYOFFS OR BUST With a full complement of kids, Pacheco is a win from its first playoff game and things are falling in favor of the Panthers (5-2, 3-1). Patterson (5-2, 2-1) is in town Friday and the Tigers are reeling after their 48-12 loss to Los Banos this weekend.
Patterson QB Joey Lopes is out with an injury and coach Nick Marchy was ejected and will miss this week's battle. Pacheco needs a win this week, because it closes the season with rival Los Banos.
TVL OUTLOOK Ripon (8-0), Escalon (6-2) and Hilmar (6-2) are in the playoffs, but who else is in? Orestimba's (5-3) in with one more win, while Modesto Christian and Hughson (4-3) likely will need two.
Hughson hosts MC Friday and the loser is a longshot to get six wins. Hughson's heavily favored vs. Riverbank in Week 9 and MC hosts Orestimba in Week 10, but each is a big underdog in its other remaining game. Orestimba was 5-0, but has lost three in a row and hosts Ripon after a bye this week.
HONOR ROLL Has Waterford ever played better defense than in its 22-0 win over Mariposa? It had five sacks and allowed 108 yards, and the offense sealed it with 15 points in the final quarter. SL co-leader Ripon Christian (6-1, 4-0) is at Waterford (5-2, 3-1) Friday. ...
Hughson's front four, led by 6-5, 250-pound David Lopez, had the Stanislaus District's top defensive effort. The Huskies held Steven Machado to minus-9 yards on 13 runs, and that had coach George Harp smiling after watching film. Machado was No. 2 in the state at 1,623 yards in seven games. ...
Anthony Cota, who scored seven TDs in a game a few weeks back, scored six in a wild 58-45 win over Kimball. He ran for 215 yards and his 80-yard hook-and-lateral gave him a sixth TD for Sierra, which hosts Sonora Friday. The star of the show, though, was Kimball QB Zack Johnson 509 yards offense with five TDs. He threw for 356, completing 14 of his 26 throws.