New Oakdale head coach Garrett Martin advises a player practice leading into the season opener (Samantha Schmidt).

'Want to make him proud': Martin ushers in new era at Oakdale High

Independent Contributor

OAKDALE – Garrett Martin is no stranger to Oakdale High School.

Coach Garrett Martin leads the Oakdale Mustangs he inherited from Trent Merzon (Samantha Schmidt).

Martin graduated from the school at the top of his class in 2010. After getting his bachelor’s degree at University of California, Berkeley, he came back to Oakdale and got a job as a math teacher and netted a job on Oakdale’s coaching staff as an assistant to the legendary Trent Merzon.

Fast forward 10 years: Martin is inheriting Merzon’s post as the head coach of a historic Oakdale Mustangs program.

“There’s definitely pressure – it’s a community I’ve lived in and grew up in and I live here now, so there’s definitely the pressure to not let people down,” said Martin. “Following coach Merzon, who was my coach, and wanting to make him and the community proud.”

Despite any pressure the head coaching title may bring, Martin is excited to begin his first year at the helm.

“It’s definitely exciting,” he said. “It’s always exciting to play football and to coach football, so while there’s pressure, we’re always happy to go play football.”

The Mustangs come into this upcoming season as a young team with only a few returning players. Martin looks forward to working with his younger guys, a goal of his being to improve instincts and “football IQ”  – having not only talented athletes, but also guys who are smart on the field.

“I think that coaches can improve (football IQ), hone it… that’s one of the hardest things about football,” said Martin. “That innate ability comes from playing a ton of football, and it’s hard to play a ton of football. We don’t have a ton of games.”

Among the batch of returners is senior Gabe McDonald, a running back who had 770 rushing yards in 11 games last season. McDonald foresees a good season for the Mustangs, and plans to use his varsity experience to help the newcomers.

“I need to help these (young) guys with confidence; most of them come up and they’re scared,” he said. “I was scared myself last year, until I realized there’s nothing really to it. You just have to play your heart out.

“If you really love the sport, you’ll gain confidence throughout practice. I pick up guys every day – I help them out, give them pointers.”

The Oakdale Mustangs are put through their paces under new head coach Garrett Martin (Samantha Schmidt).

McDonald believes that even with a new head coach, the Oakdale football program will not undergo any serious changes, noting that Martin is “fun to play for, a younger guy who understands (his players).”

Martin echoes McDonald’s sentiment.

“Things change and evolve, but it’s kind of cyclical,” said Martin. “You see, things come back around that we’ve done before. Sometimes, something is successful for us one year and one year it’s not, so we don’t do it as much.”

Martin, McDonald, and the Oakdale Mustangs will kick off the new season on Aug. 18 against longtime rival Sonora in front of home fans at The Corral. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.

Lucas Stackpole is a freelance reporter with He is a graduate of Sierra High School and started his journalism career as an intern with Stackpole is studying sports journalism at Mount Saint Mary College in New York.