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Mustangs tear into Oak Ridge to earn place in D 1 final

By James Darnell Citizen Sports Writer, 11/29/18, 8:30AM PST


After going on a tear in the second half to break a tied game, the Monterey Trail Mustangs’ magical season will continue for at least one more week.

After the first half of the Mustangs’ CIF Sac-Joaquin Section semifinal showdown against visiting Oak Ridge resulted in both teams scoring 14 points apiece inside Mark Macres Memorial Stadium on Friday, the team entered the locker room to regroup. It would be within reason to think they made halftime adjustments and corrected some mistakes, but that wasn’t what happened. All Monterey Trail did was what they’ve done all season long - break records and win games in blowout fashion - as they rode a dominant second half performance to a convincing 48-20 victory.

The win comes on the heels of the CIF postponing the semifinal round contests for one week due to air quality concerns stemming from the Camp Fire. The layoff was definitely a concern for Mustangs’ head coach TJ Ewing, who was worried about losing momentum entering the game. But those concerns were for naught as number two seed Monterey Trail compiled over 500 yards of total offense, including 413 yards coming via their vaunted rushing attack against number three seed Oak Ridge. With the win, the Mustangs improved to 12-0 overall, which broke the previous single-season team record, and they will face number one seed Folsom in the Section Championship game on Saturday, Dec. 1 at Sac State. 

“It’s great,” Ewing said regarding his feelings on the big win. “It’s great because the opponent was great. Oak Ridge is a great program every year. It’s an honor to beat them and go to the next step.”

Monterey Trail was led by workhorse senior tailback Jehiel Budgett, who tallied 26 carries for 223 yards and a whopping four touchdowns. He also added two receptions for 23 yards. Senior quarterback Zach Larrier was efficient in the passing game, going 9-of-12 for 129 yards and one touchdown, but it was his work on the ground that provided the play of the game. Larrier would score the final points of the contest on a 75-yard touchdown run up the Trojans’ sideline in the fourth quarter to put the game away.

Budgett would score both of the Mustangs’ touchdowns in the first half. Oak Ridge junior Avant Jacobs scored twice in the second quarter on an eight-yard pass from senior quarterback Matt Jenner, and a one-yard touchdown run to even the score heading into the half.

The Mustangs found their stride in the third quarter and quickly put their mark on the game with two third quarter scores, a five-yard scoring jaunt by senior running back Thaddeus Hills Jr. as well as a 62-yard scamper from Budgett, who would also score from 30 yards out early in the fourth quarter. In addition to Larrier’s long fourth quarter touchdown sprint, he tossed a 35-yard strike to senior wideout Andre Crump as Monterey Trail ran away with the game, literally and figuratively. Larrier’s touchdown pass to Crump ties the school record for touchdown passes in a season (17), with former quarterback Mike Calvin.

The stats, records, and wins keep piling up for the Mustangs, who also finished with a Metro League title in their first season in the league. But for Ewing, it was all in the cards for a team laden with upperclassmen.

“We knew we had guys coming back and we knew how long they’d been in the program, so we have a lot of good senior leaders who know the system,” he said. “So, we’ve really had a goal, and we’re one step away from that goal.”

Monterey Trail will have their chance to realize that goal Saturday when they face the Bulldogs, who are coming off an impressive 52-7 victory against number four seed St. Mary’s in their semifinal matchup. Folsom boasts an 11-1 record of their own, with their one loss coming against regional powerhouse De La Salle in the first week of the regular season. It will be a tall task for Monterey Trail as the Bulldogs will be considered the favorite. But if you ask Budgett, the focal point of the Mustangs’ offense, they’ll be more than ready.

“We’ve been preparing for this the whole season,” he said. “We know what they got, we know what we got, and we feel like we can go out there and surprise everybody.”

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