There are few secrets between Wing-T powers
Joey Montoya and Trent Merzon consider each other good friends.
The Oakdale High football coach also knows to expect his Placer counterpart to pull out all the stops when Placer hosts his team in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoff clash tonight at Le Febvre Stadium.
Even if there are some fireworks, the winner of the battle between two wing-T powers will likely be the one that can execute its basic offense the best, in Merzon’s estimation.
“To be honest, teams that win this time of year on a consistent basis are able to do what they do well,” Merzon said. “When everything shakes out, we’re going to have to stop what they do well. There’s something to be said about good teams being predictable.”
Placer High and Oakdale have plenty in common, especially when it comes to football.
The Mustangs have been powers in the Valley Oak League for many years while the Hillmen have emerged as perennial contenders in the Pioneer Valley League since the arrival of Montoya in 2007. Both teams feature defenses that are overshadowed by their offensive counterparts, but are loaded with talent. And both Oakdale and Placer have passionate fans who figure to pack Le Febvre Stadium, even if today’s forecasted storm makes it less than pleasant.
“We’re going to travel well,” Merzon said. “I’m sure it will be a packed house even if it’s raining all game.”
Montoya said he and Merzon have shared a lot of ideas about their wing-T ways.
“He’s a guy that I really respect,” Montoya said. “Oakdale is always really well-coached. I think he’s one of the best coaches in the area.”
Oakdale features two running backs that have already gained 1,000 yards this season. Daniel Linder averages 111 yards per game while Marcus Hernandez adds 102 in an offense that is averaging 335 yards per game on the ground.
Placer counters with senior Josh Turney leading a pack of runners that average a combined 326 yards per outing. Turney averages 123 per game while Michael Robinson, Brad Spangler and Joe Mangino are all capable of putting up big numbers.
The big question for Placer is at the receiver position. The Hillmen will be without playmaker Darren Centi, who broke his collarbone last Friday in a win over Woodland. Centi had seven touchdown receptions. Evan Staton and Koal Swisley are the only other Placer players with touchdown catches this season.
Montoya said seniors Josh Chase and Cameron Hennen would help fill the void at receiver, where their speed will make them dangerous.
Centi was also Placer’s placekicker. Montoya said sophomore Isaac Brahce would handle extra-point kicks while Caleb Mitchell will kick off. On the kick-return side of things, Turney will handle punt returns while Spangler will join the kickoff return unit.
Whitney (7-4) at Del Oro (7-4)
Two Placer County powers will collide in Loomis in a quarterfinal that wasn’t supposed to include either, according to the seedings.
The 11th-seeded Golden Eagles crushed No. 6 East union last Friday in Manteca while the No. 14 Wildcats overpowered Pioneer 27-22 in Woodland.
Both teams feature powerful running games. The Golden Eagles rely on their massive offensive line to open up holes for Kenny Andri and Nick O’Sullivan. Junior Jake Rodrigues leads Whitney, averaging 107 yards rushing per game and another 185 through the air. Rodrigues has accounted for 42 touchdowns on the season and was the Capital Athletic League’s Offensive MVP.
Del Oro’s defense continues to impress. Senior linebacker Shoichi Martinson was named the Sierra Foothill League’s co-Defensive MVP for his work this season while Tanner Huber, Tyler Adair, Dustin Mollard and Kai Vonalvensleben have been outstanding as well.
Argonaut (9-2) at Colfax (9-2)
The Falcons are back at Marson Stadium for a Division IV quarterfinal contest against the Mustangs, who tied Calaveras for the Mother Lode League title.
Colfax fought off Orestimba in its playoff opener last Friday while Argonaut used three fourth-quarter touchdowns from Austin Cramer to pull away from Hilmar for a 41-16 win.
Argonaut has a dangerous dual-threat quarterback in Hunter Affonso. Cramer leads the rushing attack, which also features Tyler Ramage and Kyle Richardi.
Colfax senior Tommy Baldoni carried the ball a school-record 38 times against Orestimba, racking up 261 yards with five touchdowns. Austin Young added touchdown passes to David Mowbray and Chose Mosier.