CORTEZ: Oakdale-Sonora football rivarly stands the test of time, despite realignment

jcortez@modbee.comSeptember 19, 2013 

The Bee's Joe Cortez and Brian VanderBeek take a look back at Week 2, and offer their breakdown and picks for Week 3, including Central Catholic-Downey, Patterson-Escalon and more.


— There's little that matches the excitement of Friday nights in the fall. But with longer games and pressing deadlines, interesting tidbits of information get pushed to the side as we get game stories and features into the paper and online.

Today, some of those tidbits are taking center stage. I'm taking the stuff that was left on the cutting-room floor and sewing them into something resembling a column.

(Yes, it's a total cheat.)

• It's good to hear that the Oakdale-Sonora rivalry will continue, even when Sonora leaves the Valley Oak League next season due to Sac-Joaquin Section realignment. The teams first met in 1922 and have played every season since 1927 — one of the oldest rivalries in the state.

And it's always the regular-season finale, too. Nothing says high school football like Oakdale vs. Sonora at venerable Dunlavy Field on a crisp autumn night.

But instead of playing the final week as a league game, the non-league matchup in 2014 and beyond will have to take place early in the year.

"I'm just concerned about keeping the same level of interest," said Oakdale athletic director Dave Baciagalupi. "Who's going to want to come when we're playing Sonora in Game 2, and it's 102 degrees."

So, Oakdale and Sonora have agreed to play Week Zero — the theory being that a Sonora-Oakdale game as a season opener might generate some added sizzle.

But what about Turlock? Oakdale's annual matchup with the Bulldogs — first played in 1926 — usually is the Mustangs' opener. Baciagalupi told me that while Oakdale-Turlock will continue in the short term, its long-term future is less certain.

Having seven league games and two perennial rivalries leaves just one open week for the Mustangs. That might be a comfort to most athletic directors, but Oakdale likes to get creative with its schedule and take on some real challenges. In recent years they've scheduled toughies such as Oceanside, Granite Bay and Cardinal Newman (Santa Rosa).

I hope the Oakdale-Turlock game will survive. Traditional games like these are good for high school football. Then again, the challenges that Oakdale undertakes — like Friday's game against Paraclete (Lancaster), the preseason No. 18 small-school program in the nation according to MaxPreps — may be even better for high school football.

• Oakdale is 0-2 for the first time since 2008, but a closer look shows it easily could be 2-0. The Mustangs lost 21-20 at Turlock and then fell 23-22 to Enterprise (Redding) — the reigning Division 1 North Section champ — the following week. This week they face Paraclete (Lancaster), the South Section Division 3 runner-up last season. The Spirits (2-1) lost their opener but have two blowout victories since.

Oakdale coach Trent Merzon is true to his word when he says he places a premium on the Valley Oak League and Sac-Joaquin Section titles. If Merzon had his sights set solely on a return to a state bowl game, you'd see more cupcakes on the schedule. (Click here to see Stanislaus Football Weekly.)

Not the case.

• Through three games this season, Pitman High has established itself as the best team in the Stanislaus District, averaging 58 points per game. One of the reasons for the Pride's crisp play so early in the season is the coaching staff, which includes five former head coaches in Tom Tyler (the head coach and former HC at Turlock High), Jon Derr (Hilmar), Don Curtiss (Denair), Chris Wolfley (Johansen and Modesto Christian) and freshman assistant Rusty Lyon (Turlock Christian).

Coaching is a huge part of the battle on the high school level and Pitman's staff, which includes 2006 graduate and former Fresno State star Anthony Harding as running backs coach, may be the best around.

• Remember the flap years ago about the Washington Redskins' Doug Williams being the first African-American quarterback to play in a Super Bowl? Well, it's got to be a good thing that we don't even think to refer to Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III, Michael Vick, Cam Newton, Josh Freeman, Terrell Pryor, Geno Smith, or EJ Manuel as "African-American Quarterbacks."

In a similar vein, girls playing high school football used to be earth-shattering news. Now, it's widely accepted that girls can make contributions to the football team. Just look at Sierra's Marissa LaQuaglia, a placekicker for the Timberwolves. She's quietly made 14 out of 16 extra-point attempts in the last two weeks. Not a girl kicker. Just a kicker.

• In a 69-6 win over Elliot Christian, Ripon Christian running back Andrew Brown accounted for seven touchdowns — five rushing, one receiving, one passing — and was one of The Bee's "Stars of the Week." Since we had no mug shot of him in our archives, I called and asked if he wouldn't mind sending us a "selfie."

He giggled.

"What's so funny?" I asked, already with an inkling as to why he laughed. "Is it weird to hear an old guy use the term 'selfie?' "

"Yeah," he replied. "A little bit."

Ah, nothing like being put in your place by a 17-year-old.

For all the other unhipsters out there, a selfie is one of those pictures kids take of themselves with their cell phones.

• Orestimba High School will name its playing field in honor of longtime coach Roger Pauletto, who died Oct. 16, 2012, after a battle with cancer. He was 69. Pauletto coached the Warriors for 12 seasons (1970-81), leading them to a Trans-Valley League title in 1970 and Southern League crowns in 1977, 1980 and 1981. The ceremony will be Oct. 4 when Hilmar visits.

• Switching gears to water polo, Johansen's Grant Plunkett has 70 goals through 13 games this season, which means he's flirting with the school's single-season mark of 183, set by John Jacobs 20 years ago. Plunkett has at least 17 games remaining.

• Football coaches, please remember to submit box scores and game details as close to the final whistle as possible. You can email your results to or call 578-2300. You can use the same email address and phone number to nominate a player to be a "Star of the Week."

Contact Joe Cortez at Follow him on Twitter: @modbeepreps.

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