Oakdale senior Charlie Kjeldgaard issued a simple warning ahead of Oakdale’s playoff opener on Friday: “You should be scared of the Mustangs when we’re in black.”
Following a tough loss to Manteca in their Valley Oak League finale and a bye week, the tried-and-tested Oakdale Mustangs are set to square off against the Merced Bears in the second round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs. The game will be played at The Corral, where the school has planned a blackout event.
“The bye week always makes it a little bit different,” said Oakdale coach Garrett Martin. “You want to maintain intensity, keep kids from injuries during the week, so just having two weeks to prepare makes it a little bit different.”
Despite the week off, the Mustangs feel as though the intensity is right where it needs to be, and anticipation is sky-high.
“We’re excited and healthy, we’re ready to go – guys are getting after it in practice, and we’re really excited to show them what we can do this weekend,” senior Tommy Chance said.
Sophomore standout Wes Buford echoed Chance’s sentiment.
“Everybody’s getting really hyped up, (we’re) getting all of our stuff down, working on our plays,” he said. “Everybody’s getting really excited. We got a shot at doing something great and to end the season off with a bang.”
Oakdale will face a familiar foe in Merced. The two medium-sized school powers have squared off three times since 2016, including twice in the postseason. In each battle, Oakdale has been the decisive winner. Merced is the fifth seed and rolls into The Corral following a 47-0 drubbing of Bella Vista in the first round.
The Mustangs wrapped up the regular season at 3-2 (7-3 overall), with the final game of the campaign resulting in a heartbreaking loss to Manteca. The Mustangs, however, aren’t worried – Oakdale hasn’t lost back-to-back games all year.
“The resiliency is there,” Martin said. “I am proud of how we responded to the Escalon loss early. It was definitely an inflection point… it definitely helped our kids see that there are teams out there that if we don’t play well, bring our best game, we’re going to have issues – I’m super happy with the way they responded physically and intensity wise. Bounce-back wise, we’re a resilient group.”
Senior Gavin Gleason believes that the adversity the Mustangs have faced is beneficial, and an essential to making the team better.
“One of the biggest parts about being a football player is how well you respond to adversity – in this case, adversity is the (losses),” says Gleason. “I think we played a very good game against Manteca – a very good team – and now we’re ready to respond and show the section what we can do.”
Fresh off of the bye week, Coach Martin, Kjelgaard, Chance, Buford, Gleason, and the rest of the Mustangs will host Merced at the Corral on Friday. Kickoff is at 7.