Though his team suffered its third loss in four games, East Union coach Willie Herrera celebrated the positives following Friday’s 28-8 loss to the always-tough Oakdale Mustangs.
“There are no moral victories but I want you guys to know how proud of you I am,” Herrera said after his team outscored Oakdale 8-7 in the second half. “Even though we were down you guys never quit playing and you kept going until the final whistle against a very good team. So come back next week and do all you can do to become a better football player, a better teammate and a better person.”
The Lancers were quickly on their heels as the Mustangs (1-0 VOL, 2-2) ripped off a pair of first-quarter touchdowns in this battle of two run-at-all-costs wing offenses.
Thing is, Oakdale, sparked by a three-prong running attack of Max Stephens, Brock Whiting and Tyler Williams, simply did it better.
Stephens, who ran for 97 of his game-high 109 yards in the first half, scored on a 13-yard run five minutes after Brock Whiting (96 yards, two TDs) had scored from 1-yard out to give Oakdale a quick 14-0 first-quarter lead.
“That’s a no-joke program right there,” said Herrera of Oakdale. “Everybody in the VOL knows they’re the team to beat and, even though we could have played better, this is the best we’ve played them in the eight years I’ve been a coach here. They’re the best and they’re where everyone in the VOL wants to be.”
Midway through the second period, it looked as though the hosts were going to get back into the game when Quintin Casey recovered a muffed Oakdale punt and apparently ran it back for a TD. It was blown dead but there would be yet another thrilling almost-TD moments later. Speedy Taariq Davis made a nifty run and catch of a beautifully set-up screen pass for an apparent 34-yard TD but that TD was called back by a holding penalty 25 yards behind the play.
To their credit though, the Lancers kept battling despite falling behind 21-0 just before halftime.
They moved the ball thanks to some inside running from Jose Maltez, Davis and East Union’s best all-around player, Victor Lopez, who was a defensive demon and managed to run for 50 yards despite being hobbled by the hip flexor that sidelined him last week.
Down 28-0 in the fourth, Juan Valasquez and Jairo Prado teamed to sack Oakdale punter (and safety) Dillon Farquhar for a safety to get East Union on the scoreboard.
The Lancers finally scored a touchdown on a spectacular leaping grab in traffic by tight end/linebacker Clay Cuneo of a 26-yard toss by Isaiah Gordon. Gordon, who was held to 3-of-10 passing, was sacked five times.