There will be a new Division II Northern California representative in Carson this season.
Clayton Valley (Concord)
are new to this part of the season, and the two will battle at Lincoln High in Stockton Saturday at 7:30 p.m. for the regional title.
The difference here is Oakdale has been knocking on the door for state bowl bids. Other than 2008, when Clayton Valley went 12-1, the Eagles have been out of the mix.
But first-year coach Tim Murphy has been around a few rodeos. He started coaching at Ygnacio Valley (Concord), which stands adjacent to De La Salle. When Murphy coached in the late 1990s, he gave the Spartans a run or two for their money, before accepting a job at Clovis East, where he built the Timberwolves into a perennial Central Section power.
He returned to the Bay Area this season and suddenly the Eagles (12-1) find themselves one win away from a State Bowl Game date in Carson.
Clayton Valley won its first North Coast Section championship in the 54-year history of the school with a 35-7 victory over Rancho Cotate (Rohert Park)
, a team that came in 12-0.
"It feels amazing, I've never felt anything like it," senior Curtis Grant
told the Contra Costa Times after the victory. He had an interception and caught a touchdown pass in the win. "All of our hard work from summer, everything we've been through from running, summer practices, weight training, it just feels amazing."
Under longtime coach Trent Merzon, Oakdale has gone 47-8 the last four seasons and has claimed six double-digit win seasons since 2004. In that time, Merzon has gone 79-22.
The Mustangs won their third Sac-Joaquin Section title and second under Merzon with a gritty 22-9 win over high-powered Vista del Lago (Folsom) on Friday. Oakdale intercepted four passes and returned one for a touchdown.
"Our defense was awesome," Merzon told the Modesto Bee after the game. "I'll tell you what, our defense was special."
It will need to be again to slow down Clayton Valley. In fact, this might just turn out to the be most entertaining North regional final of the bunch.
Both teams run high-powered offenses and score points in bunches. Clayton Valley is led by
, who has rushed for 2,895 yards and 34 touchdowns. The Eagles have scored 665 points (51.1 per game) while giving up 228.
Oakdale has scored 574 points using a power attack that relies on a methodical Wing-T concept. That attack is led by Nikk Ryan
"It's a great opportunity, and we love the chance to play more football," Ryan told the Bee after Friday's win. "We wanted to run at them, softening them up. Power football. That's what Oakdale has always done."
In the Freeman Rankings
, Oakdale is ranked No. 71 in the state and Clayton Valley is No. 37.Watch more videos of Clayton Valley football