Oakdale 7, Placer 6

Placer booted by Oakdale

By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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One point doesn’t describe how close the Placer High football team came to beating Oakdale Friday night at Le Febvre Stadium. One Hillmen field goal attempt bounced off the left upright. An extra-point attempt sailed slightly right and as Placer fans prayed, crossed their fingers and wrung their hands, one last kick missed left by a matter of inches. Justin Martin’s extra-point boot grazed the left upright on its way through and it made all the difference as the Mustangs beat the Hillmen 7-6 in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III quarterfinals. Placer led 6-0 at the half, but Oakdale put together a determined drive to open the third quarter. The Mustangs when 67 yards on 13 plays, capped by Marcus Hernandez’s 1-yard touchdown run. Martin’s extra-point made it 7-6. The two teams traded possessions throughout the rest of the half until the Hillmen got the ball back with just under four minutes to play and 70 yards to go for a touchdown. Senior Josh Turney motored 42 yards down the Placer sideline to set up a dramatic final two minutes. The Hillmen took it to the Oakdale 6-yard line, but with time running down, they had to spike the ball twice in three plays to stop the clock. Sophomore Isaac Brahce, who was filling in for injured senior Darren Centi, trotted out for a 23-yard field goal attempt. After two Oakdale timeouts, his kick drifted just left of the goalposts and the Mustangs celebrated wildly. Placer coach Joey Montoya said he didn’t consider anything but a field goal attempt as the clock was winding down. “Nothing else even crossed my mind to,” he said. “I just thought if we got down there, we’d go with the smart option and give ourselves a chance. We just came up a little short.” Both teams struggled to hang onto the ball, much less unleash their prolific offenses Friday. Between the hash marks, the field was, “a real quagmire,” as Montoya put it. The outside wasn’t much better. Turney finished with a game-high 134 yards on 24 carries, but Placer’s passing game was non-existent as the wet ball was virtually impossible to grip and throw. Oakdale’s Daniel Linder picked up 103 yards on 17 carries while Marcus Hernandez added 77 yards on 22 totes. “They’re a great football team and I think we’re a great football team and it’s a shame we couldn’t really show that tonight with the field the way it was,” Oakdale coach Trent Merzon said. “But I think you still saw why these teams are great with the way the played.” Placer’s defense forced three fumbles as Caleb Mitchell, Colton Davenport and Turney picked up loose footballs. Mitchell also blocked a punt in the first half and Christian Harrison recovered to set up the Hillmen’s lone touchdown. Oakdale’s defense was tough, led by senior A.C. Brown, who was the lone Mustang to play against Placer in 2008, when the Hillmen upset Oakdale at “The Corral.” “Everybody on our team played their best game tonight and I think it showed,” Brown said. “This is big for us. At the beginning of the season a lot of people didn’t even have us going to the playoffs. Now we’re going to the semifinals.” Oakdale will host Casa Roble next Friday. Placer finished the season 9-3. The seniors on the team were freshmen when Montoya took over the Placer program in 2007. “They don’t have anything to hold their heads about,” Montoya said of his team. “They played their hearts out. They left it all out there on the field. We just came up a little bit short. I’m really proud of our kids. I love these guys and it’s been an honor to be their coach.”