OAKDALE – Oakdale High junior Zeke Saffar felt the weight of Oakdale on his shoulders as the season began.
A promising sophomore year ramped up the expectations – always through-the-roof expectations in this city – and Saffar started slowly.
Memo to the semifinalists in Sac-Joaquin Section DIV – Saffar is gaining speed.
The Mustangs’ prime-time weapon crunched Patterson for 207 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries, the main entree in Oakdale’s 67-21 walkover Friday night at The Corral.
The win earned No. 2 seeded Oakdale (8-3) another home game next week against sixth-seeded Merced, which rallied from behind to eliminate Casa Roble 38-26.
Saffar merges breakaway speed with a reluctance to be stopped, which makes him almost ideal in Oakdale’s fast-tempo Wing-T. All he needed was a mental gear-shift.
“I had a whole city behind me and I felt like I had to carry the team,” Saffar said. “Coach (Trent Merzon) does a good job telling me I just have to do my job. That lowered the stress. Now I’m as confident as I could ever be.”
Saffar’s touchdowns, runs of 29 and 14 yards, spiced Oakdale’s 29-point third quarter that ushered in a running clock for the final 12 minutes. His impact was felt long before, however, while the Mustangs cruised to a 31-7 halftime lead.
Oakdale introduced itself to Patterson (7-5) with a 96-yard 13-play testimonial to how it’s done in this venue—downhill running, a couple of passes to keep the defense honest and a big finish. Sophomore quarterback Jackson Holt, shaking off a flu bug, found Cole Snider alone in the Patterson secondary for a 30-yard touchdown strike.
Oakdale, breathing easily in its comfort zone, dares opponents to keep the pace. Few can. The Mustangs totaled 480 rushing yards, and Saffar and running mate Leo Ayala (155 yards on 17 carries, 2 touchdowns) took turns gashing the Patterson defense.
Veteran Patterson coach Rob Cozart was painfully familiar with this act. The Tigers have ended two of their last three seasons with playoff losses at Oakdale. Two years ago, Patterson walked in with an 11-1 record…and was thumped 63-27.
“It’s Oakdale football. That’s what they do,” Cozart said. “They don’t lose football games.”
Patterson, outgained 540-286, absorbed physical punishment during its first-round 37-28 win over Del Campo. Shifty senior Obadiah Godbolt, slowed by back and groin injuries, didn’t practice until Thursday but still managed 107 rushing yards, two touchdowns, and a 43-yard kickoff return.
The Tigers also showed off junior Adrian Melesio, one of Northern California’s top kickers, who drew attention with his three field goals last week. Noteworthy: He doesn't use a tee on placements.
Oakdale answered with jack-of-all trades Dom McDonald, a game-long contributor with eight extra points, a field goal, a conversion pass and – on defense -- a 32-yard pick-six.
“He’s a corner, an athlete and, by the way, he’s also a kicker,” Merzon qualified.
Oakdale, idle since its thrilling victory over Central Catholic two weeks ago, didn’t regain its stride until a sharp practice on Wednesday. Even better was watching Saffar in peak form.
“The important thing about Zeke getting going is Leo going, the wings going and Jackson (Holt) going,” Merzon said.
Patterson 0-7-7-7– 21
Oakdale 14-17-29-7 –67
O – Cole Snider 30 pass from Jackson Holt (Dom McDonald kick)
O – Leo Ayala 32 run (McDonald kick)
O – FG McDonald 33
P – Obadiah Godbolt 10 run (Adrian Melesio kick)
O – Ayala 7 run (McDonald kick)
O – Rylan Kerr 1 run (McDonald kick)
O – Saffar 29 run (McDonald kick)
P – Godbolt 2 run (Melesio kick)
O – Donovan Walker 31 run (Cameron Snow pass from McDonald)
O – Saffar 14 run (McDonald kick)
O – McDonald 32 interception return (McDonald kick)
O – Thomas Watson 14 run (McDonald kick)
P – Javier Huizar 29 pass from Logan McCleery (Melesio kick)
Records – Patterson 7-5, Oakdale 8-3