By the third time that the Oakdale Mustangs crossed the goal line Friday night at The Corral, it looked like there wasn’t anything the visiting Manteca Buffaloes could do to stop them.
But that was before Trebron Russell found his groove.
Russell, a senior, was bottled up for only 16 yards in the game’s first quarter but exploded for a 74-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage after the Mustangs made it a three-possession game.
That one play gave the Buffaloes a fighting chance, and with a renewed spirit and a ball carrier that suddenly couldn’t be stopped, Manteca began mounting a slow and steady comeback that eventually turned into a shocking 55-37 victory. The seven rushing touchdowns, all by Russell, helped Manteca overcome the early deficit in the 100th meeting between the ancient rivals.
“We thought it was going to be a little bit more of a defensive battle,” Oakdale head coach Trent Merzon said. “I know our defensive coach isn’t happy about that and I’m sure their
defensive coach isn’t happy with that number either – this was offensive in a way we didn’t expect it to be and they had a lot of seniors with played with maturity while we had a lot of
guys that played like they were very young and inexperienced.
“This was a game with a lot of swings – it was the roller coaster – and our guys didn’t know how to ride that high and low and stay focused we just made a lot of mistakes.”
Trailing 20-13 at the half, the Buffaloes turned in a solid defensive stand to start the second half – which resulted in Manteca taking the ball over on the Oakdale 14-yard line – led to the game-tying touchdown when Russell sliced his way. He would add additional touchdowns from 9, 1, 7, and 43 yards, respectively, the last coming on a cutback and run up the Manteca sideline that included a little shimmy as he stepped over the last Oakdale defender trying to force him off balance.
“We knew we were going to have to fight,” Russell said. “We knew we were going to have to show what we can do and we came back and that’s what we did.”
Russell finished the game with 240 yards on 19 carries and a school record seven touchdowns.
The only Manteca score that didn’t come from a Russell carry was a Nicolas Evans fumble recovery for a touchdown for the game’s final points.
Having the previous week off to prepare for Oakdale was, according to Manteca head coach Mark Varnum, one of the key elements that came into play Friday night in the inhospitable environment of The Corral.
“I’m just so proud of all of these guys for how hard they fought tonight,” Varnum said. “We told (Russell) we were going to keep feeding it to him and that’s what we did, and he kept doing what he does best. I think it’s a testament to the hard work that all of these guys put in this week.”