Oakdale tops Whitney 24-7 in rematch of last two section winners

By: Nicholas Lozito Special to The Placer Herald
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Four turnovers cost the Whitney High varsity football team in a match-up of the past two section champions. The visiting Wildcats lost three fumbles and threw one interception and the Oakdale Mustangs took advantage en route to a 24-7 victory at The Corral on Friday night. The loss ended Whitney’s 15-game winning streak, dating back to the school’s 2007 loss to Oakdale in the Sac-Joaquin Section, Division IV title game. Whitney then went 13-0 in 2008 and won the DIV title. “We could have played in our place; we could have played other teams,” Whitney coach Mike Gimenez said. “Sometimes when you lose you can get a better look at what you’re doing and get better.” The Wildcats took the early momentum, marching 80 yards over 15 plays on the opening drive to take a 7-0 lead on quarterback Jake Rodrigues’ three-yard plunge. The sophomore amassed 43 yards rushing on the drive and finished the game with 68 yards on 19 carries. Oakdale answered with a 71-yard, nine-play drive to tie the game with a Tim House two-yard touchdown run. After a Rodrigues fumble in the second quarter set up Oakdale’s offense near midfield, House gave the Mustangs a 14-7 lead with a one-yard score on fourth-and-goal. “We always want to have an answer,” Oakdale coach Trent Merzon said of his team’s response to Whitney’s early lead. “We always talk about how one of the most disloyal things in football is momentum. One minute she’s on your side, the next minute she’s gone.” After House’s touchdowns, three more turnovers wiped out any chance of a Wildcat comeback. “Four turnovers are unacceptable,” Gimenez said. “We’re not going to beat any team turning over the ball like that, let alone a playoff team.” Whitney marched into Oakdale territory late in the second quarter before Rodrigues threw his only interception of the game. The Mustangs then drove back into Wildcats territory before Whitney cornerback Matt Smithson leaped to deflect away a sure touchdown in the final seconds of the half, holding Oakdale’s lead at 14-7. Oakdale opened the third quarter with a 16-play, 68-yard drive that lasted more than eight minutes and resulted in a Kyle Derby 25-yard field goal. Mustangs’ running back Devin Brooks (119 yards rushing) finished the scoring with a 21-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Shawn Azam led Whitney with 91 yards rushing, his longest run being a 30-yarder in the second quarter. House, the bullish back who had no runs of more than 12 yards, finished with 62 yards on 18 carries.