CARSON, Calif. –
City fast was too much for country strong in Saturday’s Division II State Bowl Championship at the Home Depot Center.
The speed and elusiveness of Serra (Gardena)
put on a spectacular show in the midday tilt and it was the catalyst in a 42-15 thumping of the ground-and-pound Oakdale
Oakdale’s best hope to win was to keep the ball on long, sustained drives – and thus keep the explosive Serra offense on the sidelines. That strategy went awry right from the get-go, and it was a blowout pretty much the whole way through.
“That’s a dynamite football team over there, unbelievably difficult to tackle, and they were huge. That’s an unbelievable football team,” said Oakdale coach Trent Merzon.
It’s hard to argue with that sentiment. The Cavaliers (14-2) were unbelievable at times on offense, as they consistently made Mustangs tacklers look silly on missed tackles. It seemed like nobody went down on the first or second hit, and barely anybody in a red jersey got tackled before picking up significant yardage.
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Take your pick as to who the star was for Serra. Marques Rodgers
scored touchdowns on his first three touches of the game, racking up scoring runs from 27, 57 and 1 yards away. Then Adoree' Jackson
took over the scoring role, scoring on passes of 50 and 27 yards from Jalen Greene
to forge a 35-0 halftime advantage.
The 27-yard score came with 32 seconds left in the half, and as he approached the goal line, Jackson went airborne, getting twisted like a whirlybird in the air before landing on his knees.
“My teammates have talked about doing celebrations in the end zone, and I was like if I get another chance I will do it,” said Jackson, who scored on three of his four touches. “I was gonna leap over him and when he hit me I just turned over.”
Jackson also scored on a 78-yard fake punt with 7:43 left in the third quarter that made it 42-0. He stood with the ball and nobody came rushing, so the junior just took off down the sideline, using some nifty moves to reach the end zone.
“It was part of the design. If nobody rushes then go ahead and take off and run. I was looking and nobody rushed full speed at me.”
Rushing was Oakdale’s plan, maybe not on that specific play, but on the offensive side. The Mustangs (14-2) only completed two passes in the first half, instead electing to rush 27 times. Those 27 rushes netted just 109 yards, and that obviously wasn’t enough to keep the ball out of Serra’s hands.
“We knew they were gonna be bigger than us, faster than us, stronger than us. We had a philosophy coming in every play that we need to get 3 ½ yards each play. You can’t stop a team if they get 3 ½ every play,” said Oakdale tackle Jeremy Brandau
. “Hats off to them, they were even better than we thought. Their defensive line was amazing.”
Serra sophomore linebacker John Houston
was as well, as he led all tacklers with 17 total stops and added a pass break-up.
“Our goal was to come here and show people our style,” Merzon said. “We didn’t play great early. We wanted to keep the ball out of their hands and we just had some bad breaks early.”
Serra did play great early. And late. In the end, the Cavaliers totaled 379 rushing yards on 34 carries and tallied 141 passing yards on seven completions – quite the efficient performance. What’s even scarier about those stat lines, and the individual ones mentioned earlier, is that Greene and Jackson are juniors.
“We knew they were going to hang on to the ball for a long time so we needed to maximize every time we had the ball,” said Serra coach Scott Altenberg. “We did that. We scored every time we touched the ball for a while there. We did not want them to get any momentum.”
Oakdale got a sliver of momentum going later in the game. Nikk Ryan
finally got the dreaded zero off the scoreboard when he converted a fourth down in the red zone and then found the end zone on the next play from 4 yards out. The touchdown, which came with 33 seconds left in the third, capped off a 16-play, 69-yard drive that took 6 minutes, 46 seconds. Spencer Thomas made it 42-8 when he converted the 2-point conversion.Marcus Northcutt
scored Oakdale’s other touchdown, moving 1 yard with 5:48 left in the contest.
The 35-0 halftime score could have brought on a running clock for the final two quarters. It needed the approval of both coaches, and Merzon didn’t hesitate to shun the offer from someone during the halftime break.
“I wanted to punch him in the mouth. That’s not who we are. It’s not in the DNA at Oakdale, we don’t quit. We keep fighting, we keep doing what we do,” he said. “Our goal in the second half: There was not gonna be a running clock tonight. Our kids had pride, that’s why we went for 2. It’s a unique community and our kids are a byproduct of that community. I’m proud of Oakdale and of our kids.”
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Northcutt led the Mustangs with 158 yards on 28 carries and Ryan had 71 on 20.
Serra has a whole lot to be proud of as well, perhaps more so. The Cavaliers won their second Bowl Game and moved into third place in the state with three Bowl appearances. They won it all in 2009 over Marin Catholic (Division III) and lost to Folsom in 2010 (Division II).