MANTECA – The end of a nine-game winning streak, one highlighted by a state championship run, was predictably unpleasant for the Sierra football team.
But in the process, the Timberwolves, an underdog in their Valley Oak League home opener, pushed a four-time section champion to the limit.
Oakdale outlasted Sierra 28-25 in both teams’ VOL debut on Friday at Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium, as Cameron Cherry delivered all four touchdowns for the Mustangs.
The Timberwolves (3-1, 0-1 VOL) jumped ahead early, on a 3-yard touchdown run from Marcos Castillo, but succumbed to the Mustangs’ 236 rushing yards and two touchdown plays on fourth down.
Both of those came on passes from quarterback Marc Dickson to Cherry.
“They were a tough team like we thought they were going to be,” said Sierra coach Jeff Harbison, who dropped to 2-10 against Oakdale in his tenure. “I think we played a lot tougher than they thought we were going to, or that anybody thought we could.”
Sierra struggled with the speed and versatility of Cherry, a wide receiver who stepped in for injured fullback Will Semone to deliver 22 carries for 168 yards and two touchdowns, with TD receptions of 20 and 14 yards.
Cherry hauled in the dagger, as Dickson floated him a perfect pass for a 28-18 lead with 2:25 remaining.
“Cam was a beast tonight, man. He put everybody on his back,” Mustangs coach Trent Merzon said. “He’s young and hasn’t played much tailback before – he’s going to be special.”
Sierra soared down the field quickly thereafter, and quarterback Mark Vicente found Jesse Babauta for a 3-yard touchdown pass. But the effort was futile, as less than a second remained for the ensuing kickoff.
“We have to get better. We made some mental mistakes that cost us on two scores,” Harbison said. “Those need to be fixed before we play East Union next week.”
Oakdale (3-1, 1-0) fumbled away its first play from scrimmage, as Josh Jacobsen recovered for the Timberwolves.
Sierra struck quickly, sending the tailback Castillo into a jumbo package – taking a direct snap out of shotgun like a quarterback – and cashing in.
Castillo was responsible for three of Sierra’s four scores, adding a 25-yard field goal later in the first quarter, and a 1-yard touchdown plunge in the second half. He took in the 2-point conversion afterward, weaving his way into the end zone.
Castillo and fellow seniors Seuseu Alofaituli and Nashon Tamiano have been on varsity for three years. The trio had the experience of beating Oakdale at home two years ago, when the two squads shared a VOL championship.
“It just gives us more confidence,” Castillo said of Sierra’s near upset. “We knew we had it. We got it done. It just didn’t come out how we liked it.”
The Mustangs tied Sierra on a 17-yard Cherry TD run in the first quarter, and took the lead for good on Cherry’s first TD catch from Dickson. Sierra cut it to 21-18 on Castillo’s second rushing TD, but the offense fell silent throughout the fourth quarter.
The Timberwolves tried for a 4th and 6 from their own 25 with less than 4 minutes remaining, but Vicente was sacked and Oakdale scored four plays later.
Jacob Peterson had a career night for Sierra, as the junior receiver posted game-highs with 10 catches for 124 yards. Oakdale denied Sierra any run game, as the Timberwolves averaged well below 2 yards per carry.
Vicente finished 26-of-38 passing for 308 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
Oakdale has beaten Sierra in 19 of 22 all-time meetings.
East Union entertains Sierra at 7 p.m. next Friday at Dino Cunial Field. The Lancers beat Lathrop 26-14 in their VOL opener.
“We’ll bounce back and come back at it next week,” Peterson said.
-- Contact reporter Thomas Lawrence at (209) 546-8272 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at recordnet.com/sportsblog and on Twitter @RecordPreps