Del Oro repeats as section champ, awaits bowl fate

Eagles stop Oakdale 21-7 as Monroe, O'Sullivan run wild
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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SACRAMENTO — The Oakdale High players knew exactly what to expect from Del Oro Friday night at Hornet Stadium. The Mustangs often knew where the ball was going before it was snapped. Getting to the football when it was in the hands of Nick O’Sullivan or Brandon Monroe was another story. The Golden Eagles used their reliable formula and came up with a familiar result. Del Oro defeated Oakdale 21-7 to win its second straight Sac-Joaquin Section Division III title. The victory also gives the Golden Eagles a great shot at their first CIF State Bowl game. They’re projected to land Northern California’s Division II bid when the pairings are announced Dec. 11. Friday’s victory did not come as easily as last season’s 21-0 romp over Oakdale in the rain in the section final. Del Oro (13-1) stuttered on its first drive and Oakdale appeared to score first early in the second quarter. But a penalty for a chop block wiped out a touchdown and Oakdale had to punt. All three of Oakdale’s first-half drives ended in Del Oro territory. The Mustangs couldn't come up with the finishing touch. “I thought in the first half we had some huge opportunities,” Oakdale coach Trent Merzon said. “But those drives ended without points. This game was definitely different than last year. We felt like we could have beaten that team. And Del Oro’s a great team.” The Eagles mounted an 11-play, 87-yard drive for the first score of the game. On third down and 5, O’Sullivan burst through a gaping hole on the right side of the line and went 25 yards for a touchdown. Oakdale’s Justin Martin was wide right on a 46-yard field goal attempt just before halftime. The third quarter was all Del Oro. Quarterback Bobby Heatherington had key third-down completions to Blake Covey and Alex Bertrando on a 55-yard drive capped by Monroe’s 29-yard TD run. Late in the third the Eagles alternated Monroe and Sullivan on a 66-yard drive that ended with Monroe’s beautiful 26-yard TD run up the left sideline to make it 21-0. Oakdale finally rallied to open the fourth quarter as Northcutt’s 48-yard kickoff return put the Mustangs in Del Oro territory. Marcus Hernandez bulled in from five yards with 10 minutes, 36 seconds left and Oakdale had hope. An onside kick recovery by Martin gave Oakdale even more to cheer about. But Del Oro defensive back Russell Smith wiped out the Mustangs’ comeback hopes. Smith went high in the air to pick off Spencer Thomas’ pass in the end zone and turn back Oakdale’s momentum. “We were a worried there, but I knew someone was going to make a play for us,” Smith said. “I saw the ball coming and I knew I had to make a play on it.” After the offense went three-and-out, Del Oro’s defense came up big again. This time O’Sullivan stepped in front of a Thomas pass and intercepted it along the Del Oro sideline to all but seal the win. O’Sullivan finished with 128 yards on 20 carries. Monroe added 133 yards on 21 carries as the Eagles stuck with their straight forward attack that has bowled over opponents all season. “We didn’t change it up at all,” Del Oro center Kevin Love said. “We know it’s going to work. Everyone just has it in their minds that we’re going to win and nothing can keep us from it.” Del Oro’s defense limited Oakdale’s potent offense to just 168 total yards. The Mustangs had been averaging close to 50 points per game. “Our defense has been lights out in the playoffs,” Del Oro coach Casey Taylor said. The Golden Eagles will be practicing this week, anticipating an invitation to the CIF State Division II Bowl Game, scheduled for Dec. 17 at the Home Depot Center in Carson. “We’re told we had to win tonight and that’s what we did,” Taylor said. “I think we deserve to go. It’s about winning games and we’ve played a very tough schedule. We’ve been ranked No. 1 in Northern California (in Division II) for 10 weeks now.” The Eagles are confident of their status, but it will certainly be an anxious week in Loomis. “It’s going to be rough,” Smith said. “We want to go really bad.”