Josh Jacobson spoke in circles as he searched for the right ways to describe Oakdale High’s victory over Patterson in the semifinal round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs.
On the field, he got straight to the point, burying the Tigers beneath a barrage of long touchdown runs.
When Jacobson finally stopped running, he had pieced together a record-setting night. The lightning-quick senior rushed for a program-best 347 yards on 29 carries, gashing Patterson repeatedly in a 63-27 victory on Friday evening at The Corral.
The reigning D-III section champions and No. 1 overall seed return to next week’s final at Lincoln High’s Spanos Stadium, where they’ll face Valley Oak League rival Manteca. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
The second-seeded Buffaloes survived another wild finish with Christian Brothers, which had its final drive stopped at the 5-yard line in a 43-38 loss. Manteca quarterback Gino Campiotti had five touchdown runs for the second straight week.
“This feels great. We knew from last year we needed to pull together and grind as a team,” Jacobson said. “I felt with all these dudes that came back we would come together.”
Jacobson, the grandson of former Oakdale football coach Jim Gilbert, earned his place in the history books. He set the single-game rushing record on his last carry, a 79-yard burst up the middle with a 3:27 left.
He found the end zone from 73, 8, 35, 27 and 79 yards out.
“These boys out there, they’re super fast,” Jacobson said, “so I just have to keep one foot in front of the other and keep on going.”
Jacobson surpassed the mark set by Will Semone in a victory over Christian Brothers in last year’s D-III section final. Semone rushed for 337 yards en route to a Stanislaus District-best 2,851 yards.
“I feel like this really bonds us together,” said Jacobson, deflecting the praise. “We need to build off of it and just keep on grinding.”
Jacobson probably won’t challenge Semone’s single-season mark, but his teammate may.
Cameron Cherry topped the 2,000-yard plateau with 221 yards on 26 carries. By comparison, it was a quiet night for the district’s leading rusher, who had touchdown runs of 50 and 64 yards.
Zac Campbell also ran well in place of Bronson Harmon, who has been limited offensively because of an ankle injury. Campbell (six carries, 67 yards) scored his first TD of the season on an 8-yard sprint to start the fourth quarter.
“My job was to make plays,” Campbell said. “When I got my chance, I executed.”
Campbell also had a sack as the Mustangs’ defense finally solved Patterson’s high-octane “Spread ’em and Shred ’em” offense. Oakdale outscored the Tigers 35-7 in the second half.
“The mood was horrible, but we can’t let that happen on our home turf,” Campbell said of the locker room at the half. “We came out with a little fire.”
Battling injuries and fatigue, the Tigers struggled with the pace and physicality.
“The biggest difference is depth,” Patterson coach Rob Cozart said. “We have guys trying to go both ways. When we’d go to a hurry-up pace, some of our guys just got worn down. They are consistent.”
Early on, Patterson wasn’t intimidated.
Cozart said the Tigers have fed off adversity and anonymity all season, and they weren’t fazed by the stage or the stakes.
Gabe Sanchez completed 10 of his first 15 passes for 162 yards and a touchdown, a 14-yard strike to Kendrick Bond in the second quarter. The speedy slot receiver had back-to-back receptions on the drive as Sanchez settled into a rhythm.
Sanchez had an answer for every Oakdale thrust in the first half. He countered Cameron Cherry’s 50-yard touchdown run with 37.7 seconds left in the half with a lightning-quick Drive.
Sanchez guided the Tigers the length of the field, competing a 28-yard pass to Joe Okitukunda up the sideline to the Mustang 25-yard line. One play later, with zeroes on the scoreboard and Oakdale itching to get inside the locker room, Sanchez escaped pressure and stepped into space along the sideline.
With a burst, he won the race to the pylon to pull Patterson within 28-20, putting the home crowd in an uncomfortable position.
Jacobson tallied the Mustangs first two scores, and had 150 yards on 14 carries in the first half.
Cherry was bottled up for most of the first half, but topped 2,000 rushing yards with a couple big runs in the second quarter. He stretched the defense with a 21-yard rip and then cut back for a 50-yard TD with 37.7 seconds left in the half.
On the second play of the second half, Cherry raced 64 yards to make it 35-20.
“Being able to come back and make it a one-possession game at the half, I told our guys we’re OK,” Cozart said. “The problem was on the second play of the second half, (the touchdown) just took all the air out of our sails.”
Oakdale is gunning for its fourth D-III title in the last six seasons.
“This is our time right now,” Campbell said.