Ties that bind

Falcons, Oakdale gridders practice, learn together
By: Mike Ray, Gold Country News Service
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While there are a lot of miles on their respective football coaching odometers, Colfax High’s Tony Martello and Oakdale’s Trent Merzon shouldn’t be called “old war horses” just yet.

Between the two veteran mentors, there is a combined nearly 50 years of football coaching experience, 31 coming at the varsity head coaching level. As far as career records, the pair go one step beyond and then some.

For instance, in 12 seasons at Oakdale, Merzon’s teams have gone 130-32-1 and have won the last six Valley Oak League titles in succession. Last season his Mustangs went 14-2 and won the school’s first CIF Northern California Div. II championship.

Martello, meanwhile, is beginning his 18th season at the helm of the Falcons. When his team lines up on Aug. 30 against Argonaut to open the 2013 season, the Falcons before them have gone 159-40-1 in Martello’s tenure. In 17 seasons his teams have bagged 12 league titles. Remarkably, 11 of his squads have posted double-digit season win totals.

So what in the heck were Merzon’s Mustangs and Martello’s Falcons doing lining up Monday and Tuesday against each other in unseasonable cool June temperatures at Colfax?

“Football builds relationships,” Merzon said Tuesday afternoon following the two-day stay with the Falcons. “Although Colfax and Oakdale’s programs are different in the things that we each do, we are similar in different ways. When you have a chance to shoulder up with a program like Tony’s and learn something new, you do it.”

While the Falcons and Mustangs did engage in passing scrimmages both days, the two teams also practiced together, interjecting players from each school into the same drills. In addition, the two team’s coaching staff shared ideas.

“This wasn’t about coming up here to just go against Colfax,” Merzon added. “This was cutting edge. It's new stuff to work out with another team and learn. It was very healthy.”  

The two coaches have forged a friendship off the field, too. In a few weeks, they’ll take their families to the Santa Cruz area to vacation together.

“It was great,” Merzon said. “The kids barbecued and spent the night on the field. Colfax will come down next summer although I know one thing, it will be warmer in Oakdale than what we experienced up here the last two days.”