High School Football

Oakdale’s path to state title goes through small parochial power

jwestberg@modbee.com

On the surface, Oakdale High School’s opponent in Saturday’s CIF Division III-A State Bowl resembles a familiar foe.

Bishop’s School is a San Diego-area parochial power with an enrollment of 550. The Knights won the 2010 Division IV state championship, negating a clean sweep by the north with a 40-14 victory over Brookside Christian of Stockton, and have contended for a San Diego Section title three years in a row.

Private school.

Small student body.

State and section glory.

Sound like someone you know?

Bishop’s football coach and athletic director Joel Allen laughs off the comparison to Central Catholic, a four-time State Bowl champion and the Sac-Joaquin Section’s all-time winningest football program. He insists his program hasn’t reached that stratosphere.

“Central Catholic?” Allen said. “I know Central Catholic. They lost to Cathedral Catholic by (three, 28-25). We wouldn’t play Cathedral Catholic. They’re the best team in our section. We’re maybe the seventh- or eighth-best, and it’s not even close.”

Central Catholic had its 22-game winning streak snapped by the Cathedral Catholic Dons in the opening game of the Honor Bowl showcase Sept. 1 in Mission Viejo. In a twist, the Dons will play St. Mary’s of Stockton – Central Catholic’s Holy Bowl rival – in the Division I-AA bowl Friday at Sacramento State.

While Bishop’s doesn’t have nearly the same credentials as Central Catholic, it does have one thing in common: the Oakdale Mustangs (13-2), a proud public-school program that runs from no one.

Not Central Catholic, a team it has beaten twice in three years.

Not Crater, an Oregon state semifinalist a year ago.

Not Campolindo of Moraga, a Division IV-AA State Bowl finalist.

Oakdale and Bishop’s tangle Saturday at La Jolla High in San Diego. Kickoff is at 6 p.m. The State Bowl is a home game for the Knights, who are 14-0 for the third time in eight seasons under Allen.

Bishop’s won a state title in Allen’s second season and have risen to No. 1 in Cal-Hi Sports’ Division IV state rankings. The Knights can thank Oakdale for their climb. Sutter was ranked No. 1 heading into its regional bowl appointment with the Mustangs.

“It was cool, but our school has never played at the III-A level,” Allen said of the 2010 State Bowl experience. “This is a step up for us.”

While Bishop’s is favored in the polls, the Mustangs will be the deeper team. Oakdale will travel with 49 players, nearly double that of Allen’s squad.

“Twenty-five guys is generous. We’re about 20 to 22,” he said. “With a little bit of luck, we’ve been able to stay relatively healthy, but it’s getting more and more difficult to keep it going as the season gets longer. We’ve got a really committed group of kids … tough football players. It’s been fun.”

Offensively, the Knights are led by the Jackson brothers, quarterback Jeffrey and wide receiver Jacob. Their natural chemistry has produced video-game numbers … numbers even Allen can’t believe.

Jeffrey Jacob, a 6-foot junior, is completing 67 percent of his passes (225 of 336) for 3,627 yards and 44 touchdowns. Jacob, a 5-foot-10, 160-pound junior, is one of his top targets with 60 receptions for 1,147 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Allen isn’t impressed solely by Jeffrey Jacob’s ability to change the scoreboard. He’s impressed by the maturity, marksmanship and efficiency his trigger man has displayed in Year Three in the system.

“You never expect a player to put up those kinds of numbers,” Allen said. “What I’m happy with is the quality. We don’t drop a lot of balls, and our wide receivers are all pretty good.”

Jeffrey is blessed with three dynamic pass-catchers, including Mozes Mooney, a 6-1 junior, and senior Justin Woodley, the tallest of his targets at 6-2. Mooney has a team-high 65 catches for 1,037 yards and 17 touchdowns. Woodley has 755 yards and 13 scores, despite serving as one of the team’s top two-way players. Woodley, the middle linebacker, leads the defense in tackles (104) and sacks (seven).

Senior Daniel Anderson clogs the middle of the line of scrimmage, setting the tone for a defense that has 53 takeaways. The 6-2, 315-pound defensive tackle has 83 tackles and five sacks.

Bishop’s has won two San Diego Section titles in three years.

“I’m proud of our kids and the balance they have,” Allen said, touting Bishop’s reputation. “They keep life in perspective and realize it’s not all about football.”

Oakdale thunders into its second State Bowl in five years behind a record-setting wing-T offense and a defense that has shone brightest in the postseason. Fullback Will Semone has rushed for a school-record 2,632 yards, the third-most in Stanislaus District history.

Junior Cameron Cherry is also a 1,000-yard running back; he and fellow wing Bronson Harmon have 10 touchdowns apiece.

The defense is paced by its linebackers, Cullen Bearden and Jace Krick, each of whom has returned an interception for a touchdown in the last two games. Bearden capped a section final victory over Christian Brothers and Ball State-bound quarterback Tyler Vander Waal with a 40-yard pick-six.

Last week, Krick pushed Oakdale into the lead with a 78-yard return on the first play of the fourth quarter.

“This is a group that you could see the talent was there when they were young,” Allen said of his club. “With a small roster, though, it can be nerve-wracking how quickly things change with an injury or two. I’ve watched film on Oakdale. They run the wing-T and there’s a bunch of guys on the sideline. I don’t think we’ve played a team as good as Oakdale.”

James Burns: 209-578-2150, @jburns1980

Division III-A State Bowl

Who: Oakdale (13-2) at Bishop’s (14-0)

When: Saturday, 6 p.m.

Where: La Jolla High, San Diego

Enrollments: Oakdale – 1,605. Bishop’s – 550.

MaxPreps state ranking: Oakdale – 52. Bishop’s – 40.

State experience: Oakdale played Serra of Gardena in the 2012 Division II State Bowl, losing 42-15. Bishop’s defeated Brookside Christian of Stockton 40-14 in the 2010 Division IV State Bowl.

Rosters: Oakdale – 49. Bishop’s – 25.

Pedigrees: Oakdale has won 11 of the last 14 Valley Oak League titles, four Sac-Joaquin Section titles under 17th-year coach Trent Merzon, and appeared in two State Bowls in the past five years. Bishop’s has appeared in the San Diego Section final the past three years, winning titles this fall and in 2014.

Tickets: $12 for adults, $8 for high school students (with a valid ASB card), seniors (65+) and children (under age 5 free).

Division VI-AA State Bowl

Who: Amador Buffaloes (15-1) at Rancho Christian (13-2)

When: Saturday, 6 p.m.

Where: Murrieta Mesa High

Enrollments: Amador – 645. Rancho Christian – 240.

MaxPreps state ranking: Amador – 196. Rancho Christian – 234

State experience: Both schools appearing in a CIF State Bowl for the first time.

Rosters: Amador – 35. Rancho Christian – 34.

Pedigree: Competing out of the Mother Lode League, Amador captured its first Sac-Joaquin Section title in the school’s 105-year history. Under third-year coach Jim Kunau, Rancho Christian, of Temecula, has increased its win total each year: seven, eight and 13.

Tickets: $12 for adults, $8 for high school students (with a valid ASB card), seniors (65+) and children (under age 5 free).

How they got here

Division III-A State Bowl

Oakdale 13-2

(MaxPreps state ranking: 52)

(Opponents’ average MaxPreps ranking: 271)

Aug. 26 at Sonora (140) L, 27-13

Sept. 2 Crater (n/a) W, 47-13

Sept. 16 at Campolindo (65) W, 28-21

Sept. 23 at Sierra (335) W, 28-25

Sept. 30 Kimball (651) L, 40-14

Oct. 7 at Lathrop (381) W, 42-0

Oct. 14 East Union (383) W, 42-6

Oct. 21 Weston Ranch (470) W, 39-14

Oct. 28 at Manteca (109) L 30-22

Nov. 4 Central Catholic (87) W, 34-21

Nov. 10 McNair (502) W, 49-0

Nov. 18 Vista del Lago (230) W, 63-35

Nov. 25 Merced (154) W, 35-21

Dec. 2 Christian Brothers (189) W, 51-14

Dec. 10 Sutter (94) W, 27-10

Bishop’s 14-0

(MaxPreps state ranking: 40)

(Opponents’ average MaxPreps ranking: 426)

Aug. 26 Santana (337) W, 43-19

Sept. 2 Patrick Henry (509) W, 63-0

Sept. 17 at St. Margaret’s (214) W, 48-24

Sept. 24 Classical Academy (723) W, 49-0

Sept. 30 Santa Fe Christian (188) W, 21-0

Oct. 8 at Tri-City Christian (716) W, 42-20

Oct. 14 at Horizon Chr. Academy (631) W, 75-28

Oct. 21 at La Jolla Country Day (179) W, 37-21

Oct. 28 at Orange Glen (727) W 63-14

Nov. 4 Francis Parker (972) W, 61-0

Nov. 18 La Jolla (343) W, 49-0

Nov. 25 Valley Center (193) W, 35-19

Dec. 3 Christian (122) W, 49-20

Dec.10 at Valley Christian (104) W, 28-9

Division VI-AA State Bowl

Amador 14-1

(MaxPreps state ranking: 196)

(Opponents’ average MaxPreps ranking: 546)

Aug. 26 at Union Mine (775) W, 24-0

Sept. 2 Rio Vista (607) W, 59-6

Sept. 9 at San Juan (1,024) W, 59-7

Sept. 23 at Linden (893) W, 61-7

Sept. 30 at Sonora (140) L, 35-14

Oct. 7 Argonaut (325) W, 24-21

Oct. 14 Bret Harte (489) W, 8-6

Oct. 21 at Calaveras (352) W, 24-14

Oct. 28 Yosemite (594) W, 35-7

Nov. 4 Summerville (650) W, 63-6

Nov. 11 Denair (690) W, 48-12

Nov. 18 Orestimba (400) W, 17-14

Nov. 26 Bradshaw Chr. (285) W, 30-7

Dec. 3 at Lincoln-SF (700) W, 45-20

Dec.10 Mendota (260) W, 21-14

Rancho Christian 13-2

(MaxPreps state ranking: 234)

(Opponents’ average MaxPreps ranking: 627)

Aug. 26 Arrowhead Christian (654) W, 35-18

Sept. 2 at Whittier Christian (380) W, 38-34

Sept. 16 Horizon Christian Academy (631) W, 31-0

Sept. 23 at Aquinas (165) L, 56-29

Sept. 30 Brethren Christian (208) L, 34-30

Oct. 7 at Santa Rosa Academy (1,015) W, 53-7

Oct. 14 Calvary Murrieta (511) W, 43-40

Oct. 21 Nuview Bridge (1,049) W, 45-0

Oct. 28 Temecula Prep (1,027) W, 48-21

Nov. 4 at Calif. Military Institute (907) W, 46-7

Nov. 11 Hamilton (1,014) W, 41-0

Nov. 18 at Godinez (538) W, 28-21

Nov. 25 at South El Monte (529) W, 42-28

Dec. 3 Santa Ana (344) W, 52-14

Dec. 9 at Franklin (438) W, 56-21

Coaches through the years

Division III-A State Bowl

Trent Merzon, Oakdale

2016 – 14-2 (5-0)

2015 – 12-2 (3-1)

2014 – 13-2 (4-1)

2013 – 7-5 (1-1)

2012 – 14-2 (5-1)

2011 – 13-1 (3-1)

2010 – 10-4 (3-1)

2009 – 11-2 (2-1)

2008 – 8-3 (0-1)

2007 – 12-1 (3-0)

2006 – 8-3 (0-1)

2005 – 4-6

2004 – 11-2 (2-1)

2003 – 12-1 (2-1)

2002 – 10-2 (1-1)

2001 – 8-3 (0-1)

2000 – 9-2-1 (1-1)

Total – 175-43-1 (35-14)

Joel Allen, Bishop’s

2016 – 14-0 (4-0)

2015 – 8-5 (2-1)

2014 – 14-0 (4-0)

2013 – 7-4 (0-1)

2012 – 4-8 (1-1)

2011 – 6-6 (1-1)

2010 – 14-0 (4-0)

2009 – 8-5 (2-1)

Totals – 75-28 (18-5)

Division VI-AA State Bowl

Bill Baker, Amador

2016 – 14-1 (5-0)

2015 – 6-5 (0-1)

2014 – 6-5 (0-1)

2013 – 9-2 (0-1)

2012 – 7-4 (0-1)

2011 – 2-8

2010 – 6-5 (0-1)

2009 – 3-7

Total – 53-37 (5-5)

Jim Kunau, Rancho Christian

2016 – 13-2 (5-0)

2015 – 8-4 (1-1)

2014 – 7-4 (0-1)

Totals – 28-10 (6-2)

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