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Mustangs maul Sierra in marquee matchup
Oakdale receiver Austin Jones makes an acrobatic catch over Sierras Jonathan Montoya before racing to the end zone untouched on a 64-yard play in the first quarter. - photo by CHRIS LEONARD / <a href=></a>

Oakdale ran two plays in the fourth quarter — a punt to get the running clock going, and a kneel-down from quarterback Spencer Thomas on the Mustang 5-yard line as time expired at Sierra’s Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium Friday.

Oakdale 49, Sierra 7.

It’s a resounding win for the Valley Oak League’s five-time defending champion Mustangs, who are now 3-1 following the conference opener. Many pegged this to be the VOL championship game. A few even thought Sierra would pull it out.

A statement? Perhaps. The Oakdale faithful chanted, “VOL! VOL! VOL!” as players and coaches met along the 50-yard line.

It fell on the deaf ears of Oakdale head coach Trent Merzon.

“We weren’t trying to make a statement,” he said. “We were really honestly trying to go 1-0 in the Valley Oak League, and I think that was to our advantage coming in. I think everybody hyped it up to be something that it wasn’t. I told our kids we don’t play for the Valley Oak League championship in Week 1 (of league), you play for the Valley Oak League championship in Week 10.

“It was bigger than what it really was. I’m not sure anybody is going undefeated in the Valley Oak League.”

The hype stems from last year’s Sierra-Oakdale showdown at The Corral. Then a junior, Sierra standout running back Anthony Cota gashed the Mustangs for 109 yards in a quarter. Sierra led 14-10 until Cota was rushed to the hospital with a broken forearm. Oakdale won 45-14.

On Friday, Cota was held to 49 yards on 15 carries. He and the Timberwolves (0-1, 3-1) did catch Oakdale off guard for one big play — a short pass from Guillermo Nunez on the flats that resulted in a 79-yard touchdown. That closed the Timberwolves in 21-7 with 2:23 left in the first quarter.

“We keyed on him,” Merzon said. “We had 11 dudes staring at No. 21. Our No. 1 objective was to not let No. 21 hurt us — he is that good. We wanted to make someone else hurt us today.”

Oakdale fullback Nikk Ryan and Thomas stole the show. The 6-foot, 210-pound Ryan pounded his way to 142 yards and three touchdowns on 20 attempts in what was his first offensive start of the season.

The Mustangs trampled their way to 307 yards rushing, while Thomas passed for 118 and two scores on 4-of-6 completions. Thomas also ran it 13 times for 101 yards. Marcus Northcutt contributed 13 rushes for 63 yards and two TDs.

“They played more physically than we did,” Sierra coach Jeff Harbison said. “They had an upbeat tempo that we didn’t adjust to very well and had our defense out of position quite a few times. Missed tackles also played a big part in this game.”

Thomas was especially impressive on third- and fourth-down plays.

On the Mustangs’ second drive, Thomas hit 6-foot-2 receiver Austin Jones, who outleaped the shorter Jonathan Montoya, down the left sideline for was culminated in a 64-yard touchdown on third-and-23.

Then on Oakdale’s first drive of the second quarter, Thomas, who doubles as the team’s punter, completed a 26-yard pass to Jones on a fourth-and-6 play fake. Ryan went on to score the first of his three touchdowns in the quarter, making it 28-7.

Later in the second, Thomas kept the Mustangs with a 48-yard run on third-and-11. Oakdale sat on a comfortable 42-7 halftime lead.

All told, Sierra was held to 252 total yards, 179 coming through the air.

“A game like this reveals your character,” Harbison said. “How are we going to bounce back from this? We’ll find out on Monday.”