Coach Terry Stark and the Inderkum Tigers have suffered some bitter losses in Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championship games through the years.
But close defeats to Casa Roble in overtime in 2008 and to Del Campo in 2009 didn’t hurt as much as Saturday night’s D-III title showdown against Oakdale at Lincoln High School.
The Mustangs (13-1) overcame a three-touchdown halftime deficit and some big first-half plays by senior quarterback Jonathan Henry and wide receiver Larry Hardy to rally for a 27-23 victory in front of a large Oakdale-dominated crowd, leaving the Tigers stunned and still searching for their first section championship despite 10 stellar varsity seasons.
Trailing 20-0 at halftime, Oakdale scored three consecutive touchdowns to go ahead 21-20 late in the third quarter.
Inderkum came back to take a 23-21 lead on Javier Gomez’s 21-yard field goal with 8:09 to go.
But Oakdale drove 68 yards to score the game winner on a 1-yard touchdown run by Frankie Trent with 3:59 left. It was the Mustangs’ fourth straight score.
Oakdale’s Ben Solario picked off Henry’s pass that hit off Hardy’s hands at the Mustangs’ 20 with 21 seconds left to secure the win and deny Inderkum a chance to play in next week’s CIF Northern California Regional playoffs.
The Tigers (12-2) had made it interesting on the final drive when Hardy snagged a pass from Henry on fourth and 19 from their 10-yard line and moved the ball to midfield before the Mustangs secured the win five plays later.
Oakdale and Inderkum, both wing-T teams, came in averaging more than 760 rushing yards between them. But the game’s biggest plays came on passes.
Henry, averaging fewer than seven passes a game, completed 7 of 14 passes for 193 yards, though he was intercepted twice.
He threw touchdown passes of 53 and 22 yards to Hardy and 39 yards to C.J. Garmon to give the Tigers the 20-0 halftime lead.
But Oakdale junior quarterback Adam Olsen, who missed on his first five attempts, including an interception by Jimmie Johnson, completed his last six passes. That included an 11-yard touchdown pass to Bobby Depuy that cut the Tigers’ lead to 20-14 in the third quarter and a 53-yarder to Gregory Hickman on the winning drive. Olsen finished 6 of 11 for 124 yards.
“We’ll keep banging our head against the wall until we win one,” Stark said. “We’ll keep working.”
He was proud of the heart his players showed.
“We were under the radar when the season started,” Stark said. “I think everyone thought either Rio Linda or Yuba City would win our league because we graduated 18 seniors last year.
“Before you know it, we won another league championship, and we kept doing it in the playoffs until we made the finals.”
Inderkum reached the championship game because of its defense, which was stellar in the first half against Oakdale but tired in the second half.
“We’ve always played good defense, but not as good as we played it this year,” Stark said. “We’ve scored a lot of points (the Tigers came in averaging 46.5 points per game) but a lot of points we’ve scored are because we’ve forced the opposing team’s offense into bad situations.”
The Tigers entered the game with 21 interceptions, 19 fumble recoveries and 19 sacks.
Junior inside linebacker Derrick Henderson was the team’s leading tackler with 121 and the Tri-County Conference Defensive Player of the Year.
Colorado commit Nu’umotu Falo dominated at outside linebacker.