Senior running back William Semone rushed for 337 yards and five touchdowns, and Oakdale’s vaunted wing-T offense could not be stopped Friday night as the top-seeded Mustangs rolled to a 51-14 win over No. 3 Christian Brothers in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championship game at Lincoln High School.
Oakdale did not have to punt and scored on drives of 73, 76, 79, 64, 82, 80 and 52 yards in winning its fifth section title and fourth under veteran coach Trent Merzon.
The win moves Oakdale into next Friday’s CIF Northern California Regional against an opponent to be announced Sunday.
Semone continued an amazing playoff run in which he has rushed for 1,162 yards in four games. His 15-yard carry on his first possession put him over 2,000 rushing yards for the season.
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“This is a throwback team,” Merzon said. “We’re big on running and big on stopping the run.”
Christian Brothers scored on its first two series and led 14-7 with 3:49 to play in the first quarter. Tyler Vander Waal threw a 64-yard scoring strike to Jamarri Jackson on the third play from scrimmage, then found tight end Spencer Webb for a 14-yard score.
Vander Waal completed his first seven passes before Oakdale’s defense stiffened.
The Mustangs allowed just 10 total rushing yards, sacked Vander Waal four times and limited him to 3 of 8 passes for 35 yards and an interception that Cullen Bearden returned for a 40-yard touchdown.
The game was a mutual-respect battle between two highly successful longtime coaches with contrasting offenses who saw their teams start slowly this year, then gain steam.
“I feel like I’ve been doing this a long time, in my 17th year as head coach, then I get to talking to Dan Carmazzi, and he’s in his 39th year,” Merzon said at Sunday’s pregame section banquet.
After Christian Brothers lost its first two games to eventual D-IV section champion Manteca (a league rival of Oakdale’s) and Jesuit, the Falcons won 11 in a row to reach their first section final in 30 years.
Carmazzi said the Holy Bowl loss to their rivals was a turning point “because after getting dominated by them in recent years, we competed.”
The Falcons had a number of impressive wins, including a 74-32 shellacking of Capital Athletic League rival Vista del Lago to win the league title in the regular-season finale and a 29-0 shutout over No. 2 seed American Canyon in the section semifinals.
They did it behind a spread offense and opportunistic defense that featured the passing of Ball State commit Vander Waal, the multifaceted play of the speedy Jackson and pass-catching talents of Matt Marengo.
The Falcons also had an opportunistic defense that produced 35 sacks, 26 interceptions and 10 fumble recoveries, though they were unable to force Oakdale into any miscues.
Carmazzi said it was nice how well his veteran coaching staff melded with young players willing to learn.
“We’ve got a really old coaching staff with me (age 63), Dave Hoskins (71), Al Hooker (78),” Carmazzi said. “But we all love the kids, to be around them, to see them get better. They’re great student-athletes.”
The Falcons’ last section title appearance, with new UC Davis coach Dan Hawkins then at the helm, was in 1986 when the Falcons fell 14-0 to Vintage of Napa in the D-I final.
The Falcons won 15-12 in overtime against Vintage in the 1983 championship game under Jeff Tisdel and 14-10 over Napa in the 1981 title game under Craig Rundle.
Oakdale lost its season opener to Sonora and fell to Manteca on Oct. 28 as the Mustangs, Manteca and Central Catholic wound up sharing the Valley Oak League title with 6-1 records.
In the playoffs, Oakdale defeated McNair of Stockton 49-0, Vista del Lago 63-35 and Merced 35-21.
The Mustangs did it by staying true to their roots with their run-dominated wing-T.
It was Oakdale’s sixth appearance in seven years in the D-III championship game and 14th overall appearance in section title games.
The Mustangs won titles in 2012 and 2014. Oakdale also won a D-IV title under Merzon in 2007 and also won a D-II title in 1996 under another coach.