Who do you like: the top-ranked Mustangs? Or the four-time state champion Raiders?
Yes, it promises to be a week of great debate on the Stanislaus District football trail, especially the stretch that connects Oakdale to Central Catholic.
The top large-school teams in the southern half of the Sac-Joaquin Section finally answer the burning question on Friday at David Patton Field: Who will end the regular season No. 1 in the district and Valley Oak League – the Mustangs or the Raiders?
After avoiding the topic for much of the season, Central Catholic coach Roger Canepa finally acknowledged the Week 10 showdown.
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“We didn’t want to look ahead to this game, but after the Manteca win, we knew we were on a collision course,” Canepa said. “When they beat Manteca, it was the same point: Don’t talk about it until it’s here.
“Now it’s here.”
For now, Oakdale (8-1, 6-0) sits atop the throne, its season-long perch solidified by one blowout after another.
The Mustangs added another to its body count Friday, throttling Lathrop 62-0 at The Corral.
Cameron Cherry and Josh Jacobsen scored two touchdowns apiece for Oakdale, now 86-7 at The Corral since 2004. Cherry finished with 118 yards on 12 carries, while Jacobsen chipped in 81 yards.
Bronson Harmon, Hunter Falconi, Max Moore, Hayden Knittle and Justin Jerichoff also notched touchdowns for Oakdake, which seeks its second straight win over Central Catholic.
Last season, the Mustangs rolled the Raiders en route to VOL, section Division III and CIF State Division III-A championships.
That loss will serve as motivation this week, Canepa said.
“Anything helps,” he said. “Last year, I don’t know that we gave our best effort. But hey, they won and parlayed that into a state title. I say this but people think I’m nuts: It’s still just one game.
“Whether we win or lose, both teams are going to the playoffs. Both will have high seeds. It’s a big game and deserves the attention, but after this game ... you better be ready to play the following week or you won’t make it through the playoffs. That’s our main goal.”
For Central Catholic, the 2016 season was a down season by their lofty standards, but they’ve bounced back. The four-time state champions are one of four unbeaten teams in the district, joining Gregori, Big Valley and Orestimba, all 9-0.
Central Catholic is 8-0 and 6-0 in the VOL, missing a game due to the heat wave that terrorized the football schedule in September.
That’s about the only resistance the Raiders have experienced this season. Central Catholic punched its ticket for this title match with a 42-7 victory over Kimball on Friday.
Dauson Booker rushed for 162 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries, while quarterbacks Kyle Jackson and Theo Azevedo combined to go 9 of 12 for 109 yards and a touchdown.
Emilio Guajardo had five catches for 72 yards, including a 15-yard scoring grab from Azevedo to make it 35-7 at the intermission.
The Raiders have won two of the three meetings with Oakdale since joining the VOL.
Never, though, have they had to look up at the Mustangs in the power rankings. Oakdale has been the season-long No. 1, surviving a loss to regional heavyweight Folsom.
“They’re a great football team,” Canepa said. “They won the state title. They return all their guys. We’re just happy to be mentioned in the same breath as them.”
So, who do you like?