Oakdale, the two-time runner-up in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs, posted a 22-9 victory over Vista del Lago to win the 2012 title on Friday night. The Mustangs used a dominating defense and timely big plays on offense to likely secure a Division II regional bowl bid.
Vista del Lago never got on track with five turnovers and a blocked punt in the program's first section title game. After Oakdale's Eddie MacHado returned a first quarter interception for a touchdown, Spencer Thomas found Austin Jones for a 21 yard touchdown pass to put the Mustangs up 14-3 at halftime. Vista del Lago was held to 24 yards of offense in the second half with the result never in question.
Senior Nikk Ryan ran hard at fullback for the Mustangs with 29 carries for 170 yards, including two big gainers on fullback dives to start the second half. In total, he had three runs of at least 19 yards for an offense which struggles to generate the big play. He was also a mismatch at defensive end in taking good angles to pressure the quarterback and also hold up against the run.
The statistics and superlatives for Oakdale's defense on Friday can fill a page. The only touchdown it gave up was after Vista del Lago returned a punt to Oakdale's one yard line and scored on the next play. The Mustangs gave up two completions in the second and third quarters for zero yards. They hit well at all three levels and tackle well in space. Oak Ridge held the Eagles to 136 yards in the season opener compared to 162 by Oakdale on Friday.
Field position was key for the Mustangs, which started at its own 48 yard line or better on six of its first 10 drives. For a team which struggles for big plays, winning field position is vital going forward. Oakdale struggled to convert deep in Vista del Lago territory though.
Vista del Lago
Sophomore quarterback Matt Jimison threw for 2,490 yards with 37 touchdowns and nine interceptions this year, but struggled in the championship game. The 6-foot-2, 180 pounder finished 11-for-27 for 99 yards and four interceptions. He wasn't helped by his receivers with a handful of drops, but he also struggled on his deep ball. He relied on mostly short stuff for his yards.
Vista del Lago played a solid game on defense, but was put in too many bad spots. A positive from Friday was how they played Thomas as a runner. With Oakdale utilizing play action rollouts, the Eagles always had one defender or multiple guys to corral the senior signal caller. They were eventually hurt on long pass plays and Ryan up the middle, but did a good job on Thomas.
Junior running back Josh Pfeffer finished with 62 yards and a touchdown and two catches for five yards. He helped keep the Eagles in the game in the first half being able to find creases, but was held to zero yards on his last seven carries. Pfeffer and Jimison are good offensive building blocks for next year.
Oakdale is a 13-1 section champion and likely headed for the Division II regional bowl game against Clayton Valley, which won the North Coast Section Division II title. Having seen both teams this year, Clayton Valley is a slight favorite next week, but for a night, it is all joy. After watching Del Oro celebrate the past two years, it is now Oakdale's turn to raise the section banner.