They packed Lincoln High School in Stockton with 7,000 fans for the North Division III Regional final and Oakdale (Calif.)
and Clayton Valley (Concord, Calif.)
didn't disappoint. Spencer Thomas
threw for 225 yards and four touchdowns leading Oakdale to a superbly played 27-24 to give the Mustangs their first State Bowl bid.
Oakdale now plays Serra-Gardena in the State Bowl championship next week in Carson at the Home Depot Center.
"You can't put this into perspective right now," Oakdale coach Trent Merzon told Brian VanderBeek of the Modesto Bee. "I just can't believe our kids and their unbelievable efforts. The community turnout was great and they got loud at just
the right times. How did we just do that?"
Considering the Mustangs are known to run the ball constantly with a Wing-T attack, it's easy to surmise they went away from what brought them here.
They took a 14-9 lead with a 14-play, 66-yard drive that was capped on a touchdown pass from Thomas to Austin Jones
. The pass was tipped by Clayton Valley standout Joe Protheroe
but got to Jones.
Clayton Valley took a 17-14 lead on a 7-yard run by Tanner Ware
but on the two-point conversion — a Jesse Medrano catch — Protheroe rolled his ankle. He never returned.
That was huge, considering Protheroe had rushed for 95 yards and finished the season with 2,990 yards.
Worse than that for Clayton Valley, Thomas went right to work against his replacement on defense. Thomas and Jones hooked up on a 70-yard scoring play to make it 20-17 with 4:35 left in the third.
It was a lead Oakdale would never relinquish.
Eddie Machado intercepted his second pass and that set up a 30-yard touchdown between Thomas and Dewayne Finney
, making it 27-17.
Clayton Valley (12-2) didn't go away, even with its star player on the bench. Joe's brother Mike Protheroe scored on a 2-yard run in the final minutes but it wasn't enough.