Eagles fall to Oakdale in Division III title game, 22-9

Five turnovers doom Vista, despite strong defensive effort
By: Matt Long, Sports Editor
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Vista del Lago’s dream of winning a section football title will have a wait another year.

The Eagles were thrilled to make the big step to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championship game this season, but for the second straight year the Eagles were eliminated by Division III power Oakdale, this time 22-9.

While the rain that everyone thought would be a factor all week turned out to be a no-show at Lincoln High School in Stockton, it was the Oakdale defense that took care of the Vista offense all by itself. The Eagles only managed one touchdown, coming midway through the fourth quarter when the outcome was already determined. Vista turned the ball over five times, gave up a safety and had a punt blocked, clearly playing its worst game since the season-opener against Oak Ridge, the team’s only other loss.

“You can’t turn the ball over like that in any game let alone the section championship game,” Vista coach Chris Jones said. “Oakdale had a lot to do with that. They were more physical than us, but at the same time we didn’t have our best game.”

For the second year in a row, Oakdale scored the opening points of the game one a pick-six, which turned out to be a sign of things to come for the Eagles. Last year the Mustangs intercepted Aaron Young three times and this year picked off Jimison four times, after he’d only thrown nine interceptions in the previous 12 games.

The Eagles were able to gain yardage in the first half, including 58 yards rushing from Josh Pfeffer and 60 yards from Jimison through the air, more than double the damage the Mustangs managed on Vista’s defense, but Vista still trailed 14-3 at halftime.

The pick-six obviously hurt, but Oakdale’s second touchdown was also a gift from the Eagles. After having a punt nearly blocked followed by one fully blocked, Evan Ewey’s third punt of the second quarter – deep in Vista’s own end -- came off the side of his foot and went for seven yards. Oakdale took over at the Vista 24-yard line and three plays later, a 21-yard touchdown pass from Spencer Thomas to Austin Jones put the Mustangs up 13-3 with Sean Harrity’s extra point making it 14-3.

Vista’s only points of the half came on a 33-yard field goal coming on Vista’s second possession and its best drive of the game, which covered 61 yards over 15 plays. No other Vista drive on the night lasted longer than eight plays and no Vista drive in the second half was longer than five plays before they punted or turned the ball over.

Andrew Schantz had an interception for the defense, while the group did a great job on the Mustangs, led by the line of Chris Grunsky, Brandon Kim, Evan Ewey and Austin Muir, along with linebackers Nick Rametta, Austin Eberle, Kevin Wentz and JT Winkler.

“The game plan was to play physical and if we did that we had a chance,” Rametta said. “The key was to stop number 44 and I thought we did that except for a couple of plays in the second half and that might have been the difference in the game.”

Jones said that the defense played great.

“Over the last six weeks our defense has been outstanding,” Jones said. “I can’t say enough of the way they played. Our offense didn’t do enough tonight to help them out.”

While the tears were flowing after the game, Jones did his best to keep things positive.

“I know it hurts and I understand that, but I’m going to praise you guys right now,” Jones told his team. “You guys were all in all year and did a great job. I know you don’t feel good about tonight and that feeling will take awhile to go away, but I liked our fight tonight. To our seniors, I can’t say enough about how you led the team all year. You took us to a place where we’ve never been. I know it’s hard to go out this way, but you guys set the standard of what Vista del Lago football is all about. You should be proud of yourselves and what you’ve done and I’m going to miss you.”