High School Football

Oakdale bounces back from tough loss, runs past Sierra

Watch some of they key highlights of Oakdale’s 56-24 win over Sierra

Watch some of they key highlights of Oakdale's 56-24 win over Sierra in Manteca on Friday, Oct. 5, 2018.
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Watch some of they key highlights of Oakdale's 56-24 win over Sierra in Manteca on Friday, Oct. 5, 2018.

If there’s a statement to be made about the 2018 Oakdale High football team, it’s this: When they’re good, they’re very good. When they’re not ... well, you get the idea.

The Mustangs were mostly very good on Friday night, dominating host Sierra after a slow start and rolling to a 56-24 Valley Oak League victory.

But Oakdale head coach Trent Merzon is still looking for the consistency that seems to have evaded the Mustangs this season.

“This group’s unique. We love to make life hard on ourselves,” Merzon said. “Once we got it rolling, we got it rolling.”

It took the Mustangs a few drives to get things rolling against Sierra, but once they did the game was never in doubt.

After Sierra took a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter, the Oakdale offense turned up the tempo and the Timberwolves were unable to match it.

Oakdale scored 35 unanswered points en route to a 28-point halftime lead, then coasted through the second half to improve to 6-2 overall and 3-1 in the VOL. Sierra dropped to 3-4 overall, 1-2 in the VOL.

Watch Oakdale coach, players talk about their team's win over Sierra on Friday, Oct. 5, 2018.

“We’re a long way from perfect,” Merzon said. “We play really well in spurts, and we play poorly in spurts — on both sides of the ball, on special teams. It’s kind of what we’ve been doing all year long.

“We have that ability, like you saw, to get it rolling. We’re explosive.”

Most of that explosiveness comes in the form of a punishing running game, a three-headed monster that features seniors Max Moore and Caleb Kuppens, and sophomore Zeke Saffar.

Moore ran for 177 yards and three touchdowns, Saffar rushed for 158 yards and two TDs, including an 87-yarder on the last play of the first half, and Kuppens rushed for two touchdowns and a two-point conversion.

The impressive offensive outing came a week after Oakdale lost a heartbreaker to rival Manteca, 19-14, with the Mustangs failing to convert on a potential game-winning drive in the final minute.

“Right now we’re nowhere near as good as we can be,” Moore said. “I think at times we flash the potential of what we can be, we just have to get out of our own way.

“The only team that can stop us is us.”

The schedule seems to favor Oakdale in the final weeks of the regular season.

The Mustangs return home next Friday after three consecutive road games and will face Kimball (3-6, 1-4 VOL) in their homecoming game at The Corral.

Oakdale then gets a bye week to freshen up before hosting first-place Central Catholic, The Bee’s No. 1-ranked large school team, in the regular season finale. A win would over the Raiders would likely force a three-way tie for first place in the VOL.

But to have any chance to upset Central Catholic, the Mustangs are going to need to find some consistency.

How do they do that?

Kuppens summarized: “If someone’s not doing their job, the guy next to him has to pick him up. If the defense struggles, the offense needs to pick it up. If the offense struggles, vice versa. Just work hard and play for the dude next to you.”

If Oakdale can find that consistency, the Mustangs could go deep in the playoffs.

Sierra, which got a nice game from sophomore running back Kimoni Stanley (194 yards, 2 TDs), hosts East Union next Friday.

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Jim Silva has been involved in covering local sports and news for The Modesto Bee since 1996. He graduated with a degree in journalism from San Jose State.
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