Sonora held Oakdale scoreless into the second quarter as darkness fell Friday night at Dunlavy Field with both teams determined, hungry, mistake-prone and jumpy on their opening sets of plays.
But the floodgates opened in the second quarter as Oakdale settled their nerves and Mustang backs Zeke Saffar and Leo Ayala ran rampant for multiple touchdowns. The first half ended with an Oakdale fumble return for a touchdown, with a Sonora personal foul call on the play, to make it Oakdale 34 Sonora 0 with triple zeros on the game clock.
The second half started the same as the first half ended, with Oakdale receiving the kickoff and Saffar galloping more than half the length of Dunlavy Field to make it 41-0 with 11:49 left in the third quarter.
With under four minutes left in the game, Sonora had first and goal inside Oakdale’s 5-yard line and got called for illegal motion. On second and goal Wildcats slotback Aiden Kostlivy ran the ball in a for a touchdown to make it 41-7 with less than two minutes left in the game.
“Oakdale is a big team, they came with more players than we did, and the fact we stayed in the game all four quarters and fought, I think we take something positive from this,” Kostlivy said after the final whistle and both teams knelt and prayed at separate ends of the field.
Sonora slotback Justin Morgan said the Wildcats effort was there Friday night, in spite of a few mental mistakes, and he and his teammates will seek to turn it around next week as they prepare for Ripon.
Sonora bossed the game in the opening minutes. Wildcats quarterback Nick Crockett carried right for eight yards, running back Aiden Kostlivy took a sweep left side for four more, Crockett carried for nine more yards into Oakdale territory, and Sonora’s Golden Regiment Band went nuts. Crockett’s second-down pass attempt was intercepted by an Oakdale defender, and Sonora fans in the stands cried, “Oh no!”
The north stands at Dunlavy were Sonora faithful in primarily green-and-gold, and red-clad Oakdale fans packed the south stand. Sonora’s band occupied a set of bleachers set up just beyond the north goal posts.
Oakdale returned the interception to the their own 42-yard line. A penalty against Sonora moved the ball five more yards, then Sonora’s defense stuffed Oakdale for a three-yard loss. Sonora defenders stood firm again and held Oakdale to no gain, and Oakdale eventually punted.
Sonora started with promise again with the score still 0-0. The Wildcats gained three yards on a run, picked up five more yards on an encroachment penalty against Oakdale, Wildcats running back Elijah MacDonald carried up the middle for a first down.
There was a first-and-ten mixup in the backfield, the ball flew straight up in the air and it looked like Crockett caught it and took a loss of five yards back to the Oakdale 44.
At the end of the first quarter it was still 0-0 and the Sonora band continued cranking up the noise from their perches at the north end zone.
Then on third and five with about four minutes gone in the second quarter, Saffar took off around left end on a 68-yard rumble for Oakdale’s first score. It was all downhill from there for Sonora until Kostlivy’s score in the fourth quarter. That score allowed Sonora fans to holler and it gave the outnumbered Wildcats varsity squad to take something away from the game.
“This was a great test for our team,” Crockett said after the game. “We don’t want to play the lower level teams. We want to play the strong teams like Oakdale. We want to play against the difficult teams. We have a lot to work on, I know I need to work on my footwork. But we’ll be working hard next week to improve.”
Sonora head coach Bryan Craig said he was pleased with Wildcats football in the first quarter and early in the second, he saw a lot of strengths Sonora can build on. He said he’s happy with the way his team played but they have to work on reducing mistakes.
“I’d rather not turn the ball over four, five times, whatever it was,” Craig said. “But we played really well for more than a quarter, we kept our heads.”
The game’s four quarters, though, so Craig and the Wildcats know they have more work to do to get ready for Ripon in a week’s time.
“There’s a lot to build on,” Craig said. “The kids fought hard.”
The Sonora varsity football team is scheduled to play Ripon High School at 7 p.m. Aug. 30 in Ripon in San Joaquin County, about 50 miles west of Sonora.
Contact Guy McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.