OAKDALE -- Trent Merzon wasn't saving anything for next week's Sac-Joaquin Section title game. He needed to make sure Oakdale got to that game, which sent him deep into his playbook.
The Mustangs used a play that hasn't been seen in two years, a reverse that led to a TD pass to the quarterback, to break the back of American Canyon in a 42-19 semifinal victory at The Corral.
Oakdale also got a TD on a fumble-rooskie type play, as the defense chased after the decoy rather than the ball.
"That's a great team with great athletes. We used a reverse early and they shut it down," Merzon said. "When we came with a trick play, they were in his face again."
The trick play was nearly identical to the reverse, receiver Austin Jones taking the ball from wingback Marcus Northcutt and heading to his right. This time, however, Jones pulled up to lob a 20-yard TD pass to quarterback Spencer Thomas in the end zone on fourth-and-9.
"We used it two years ago, Vince (Thompson) tossing it to Spencer," said Merzon, whose Mustangs (12-1) face tonight's Vista del Lago-Inderkum winner next week.
That TD capped a furious 12-minute run that turned the tight game into a rout.
Oakdale had taken a 21-13 halftime lead, after fullback Nikk Ryan had plowed into the end zone for his second TD with 1:38 left in the half. Northcutt's 12-yard TD run just minutes earlier had put Oakdale up 14-13.
Oakdale used trickery for that TD, too, Thomas tucking the ball into Northcutt's gut and drawing the defense as he rolled to the right. After counting to three, Northcutt burst up the middle and ran through two tackles on his way to the end zone.
Two TDs in 6 minutes, but that would be just the start.
After Northcutt ran back the second-half 54-yards, Thomas flicked a 30-yard TD to Jones. The 6-foot-3 receiver was double-covered on the play with Oregon-bound safety Chris Seisay on one side but he left them both in his wake as he caught the ball at the 3 and then ran in.
Oakdale pooched its kickoff and recovered a fumble, and Ryan burst in from the 1 to make it 35-13. Dwayne Finney intercepted a pass moments later, and that set up Jones' TD to Thomas.
Those 35 points came in 12 minutes, and American Canyon (10-3) never recovered.
It had rolled into Oakdale with one of the state's elite running backs: Jomon Dotson had topped 2,000 yards, averaging 13 yards a run.
He finished with 47 yards on 16 carries, and didn't get a carry in the second half until 1:37 was left in the third period. He had nine carries of 2 yards or less, and four times was tackled for a loss.
"We worked on taking the right angles, wanting to prevent the big run play," said end Ryan, who ruined the Veer offense by crashing into the backfield. "No one's blocking an end in the Veer, they just hope he'll miss."
Ryan often met Dotson as he took the handoff. He was too quick off the ball for the tackle to block him, and the Wolves had to abandon their signature run play.
The Wolves had a meager 73 yards rushing, but Mike Rapacon (12 of 24, 174 yards, two picks) tossed three TDs.
Oakdale used its methodical Wing-T to gain 362 yards Thomas (7 of 8, 126 yards) was nearly flawless, and he also ran for 41 yards. Northcutt (16 carries, 64 yards) and Ryan (18, 88) continually pounded at the defense.
Oakdale recovers fumble against American Canyon (Richard T. Estrada/The Modesto Bee)
American Canyon scores on big pass play (Richard T. Estrada/The Bee)
Oakdale's Jones hauls in long pass for TD (Richard T. Estrada/The Bee)
Oakdale's Dewayne Finney picks off pass (Richard T. Estrada/The Bee)
Oakdale's Marcus Northcutt scores for Mustangs (Richard T. Estrada/The Bee)
American Canyon gets on the board (Richard T. Estrada/The Bee)