The Corral at Oakdale High is famous for its tri-tip sandwiches and championship-caliber football.
Not its cupcakes.
In the last 13 years, the Oakdale High football team has opened its gates to programs with ties to regional and state playoffs: Cardinal Newman (2007), Novato (2009), Enterprise of Redding (2013), Menlo-Atherton (2015) and Crater of Oregon (2016) have all visited The Corral, one of the toughest venues in the Sac-Joaquin Section.
This season, the Mustangs will host a different breed of big – the Folsom Bulldogs, a seven-time Sac-Joaquin Section champion, three-time Division I champion and two-time CIF State champion.
The two Northern California powers clash on Sept. 8, and the evening promises to have a playoff atmosphere.
Both are ranked in the Top 20 in a preseason poll released by NorCalPreps.com.
Folsom, who won three consecutive Division I titles from 2013-2015, is No. 3 behind perennial state champion De La Salle and No. 2 St. Mary’s of Stockton, which lost a shootout to Cathedral in the CIF Division I-AA state bowl.
Oakdale is No. 15 and the only team from the Stanislaus District ranked in the Top 20.
That’s not to say the Stanislaus District won’t have its chance to shake up the polls. On Aug. 25, Turlock opens the season against No. 6 Freedom of Oakley, while Manteca hosts No. 8 Valley Christian of San Jose.
Central Catholic will face Top 20 teams on back-to-back Friday evenings: No. 17 Marin Catholic of Kentfield on Sept. 2; and St. Mary’s on Sept. 8.
Oakdale opens the season at rival Sonora Aug. 25. It will be the 101st meeting between the former Valley Oak League combatants.
The Mustangs will host El Capitan of Merced, another new team on the schedule, before welcoming the Bulldogs.
Folsom has been the Sacramento Bee’s top-ranked football team since 2012, and the program has become a blue-chip factory under head coach Kris Richardson.
The Bulldogs have produced top-flight Division I talent, most notably Washington quarterback Jake Browning, a Heisman candidate as a sophomore, and Alabama right tackle Jonah Williams.
Browning and Williams were teammates on Folsom’s undefeated 2014 team. Browning set a national record with 91 touchdown passes and Williams was a five-star recruit as the Bulldogs went 16-0.
Fate brought them together last fall in the Peach Bowl for the College Football Playoff semifinal. Only this time, they were enemies. Williams and the Crimson Tide got the better of Browning and the Huskies that night, clinching a berth in the national championship with a 24-7 victory.
All of that success has created an aura of invincibility.
Not that Oakdale cares.
The reigning Division III section and Division III-A state champions have never backed down from a challenge under coach Trent Merzon, who is 175-43-1 in 17 seasons.
The Corral, with its new turf and scoreboard, provides an added measure of confidence. Oakdale is 78-6 since 2004 in front of its home fans, many of whom tailgate on the street before the game.
The Mustangs return a talent-rich senior class led by Nico Sarale and Matt Kjeldgaard, best friends and linemen with Division I futures.
Sarale has received nine scholarship offers – the most in program history – while Kjeldgaard has committed to his dream school, Fresno State.
Fans won’t want to miss this game. Oakdale and Folsom have entered into a one-year agreement.
NorCalPreps’ Preseason Poll
1. De La Salle (Concord)
2. St. Mary’s (Stockton)
5. St. Francis (Mountain View)
6. Freedom (Oakley)
7. Oak Ridge (El Dorado Hills)
8. Valley Christian (San Jose)
9. Serra (San Mateo)
10. Elk Grove
12. Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland)
14. Clayton Valley Charter (Concord)
16. Campolindo (Moraga)
17. Marin Catholic (Kentfield)
18. Granite Bay
19. Foothill (Pleasanton)
20. Jesuit (Carmichael)