Oakdale head coach Trent Merzon prepares his Mustangs for another season.
OAKDALE, CA - Although a State Bowl game appearance was a phenomenal experience for the Oakdale Mustangs, that never was the goal from Trent Merzon's talented high school football team and nor will it be this season.
The Mustangs (14-2) fell to Serra of Gardena in a lop-sided 42-15 CIF D-II State Championship appearance at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA. That loss was only the second of the season for the Mustangs, who fell in their second game against Oceanside.
Merzon said while the experience in the State title game was fantastic, the real honor was representing the small town of Oakdale on such a grand stage.
"It means something to play for this town, it's important," Merzon told News10, following Wednesday evening's practice. "Going down there, it wasn't about winning or losing - it seldom is. It's about representing our community and letting our community come see us on a Friday night and enjoy what they see."
The players echo that sentiment and recognize just how important the Mustangs' football program is to the Oakdale community.
"There's so much pride," said senior safety Tanner Morgan. "Every single Friday night, I think that it's something that every kid look up to and forward to seeing that whole stadium just full; it's amazing.
"We go to some places and the home stands aren't even full, but our visitors stand is filled with Oakdale fans."
Those loyal fans turn out each and every year and have quite the reputation. Fittingly nicknamed "The Corral", the community shows up in great numbers.
"This community, there's nothing like it," Merzon said. "There's nothing like high school football in Oakdale."
Despite the appearance in Carson, the focus remains the same year after year in Oakdale - to win yet another Sac-Joaquin Division III Section Championship.
The challenge this season will be replacing 18 starters, but Merzon insisted that's nothing new. The Valley Oak League is much stiffer headlined by a much improved Turlock team.
Ironically, the Oakdale season begins at Turlock High School on Aug. 30 in zero week against the Bulldogs.
By Sean Cunningham, SCunningham@News10.net