Tokay High's football team entered Friday night's San Joaquin Athletic Association game against Franklin with extra incentive for a win.
And Bobby Caffese made sure it happened.
The Tokay cornerback returned an interception 55 yards for the go-ahead score and the Tigers held on for a crucial 18-16 victory at the Grape Bowl.
Not only was the win No. 100 for 17-year head coach Jeff Tracy, it also ended a two-game losing streak to the Yellowjackets that had resulted in Tokay sitting at home during the postseason two years in a row.
But with SJAA playoff bids increasing from two to four this season, the win is just what the Tigers needed, Caffese said.
"The win gives us a lot of confidence and it gets us going strong for the playoff push," he said.
A quick look at the SJAA standings shows Lincoln (5-0) in first, St. Mary's (4-1) in second and the Tigers (3-2) in sole possession of third.
"It was do-or-die for both teams tonight with regards to the playoffs," Tracy said. "And Bobby came up huge for us tonight in addition to the entire defense stepping their game up."
Caffese's heroics were almost wasted.
Tokay held an 18-14 advantage after forcing a turnover on downs with 11 minutes remaining in the game.
Following a Kenny Trevillion 1-yard run on fourth-and-inches, the Tigers continued to chew up yardage on the ground, prompting Franklin coach Tom Verner to say his team was pounded pretty good.
But with Tokay driving to the Franklin 21-yard line with 4:14 on the clock, the Yellowjackets held on fourth down.
The Yellowjackets then moved quickly as Richard Davis hooked up with Brandon Williams for a 49-yard strike.
As the drive continued, Franklin moved to the Tiger 8-yard line before Davis' pass was knocked down on fourth down, forcing the second turnover on downs.
Tokay then took over on its own 8-yard line and kneeled three times, with the Yellowjackets calling time-out each time to force a fourth down with 17.9 seconds left.
The Tigers then took the safety to make the score 18-16 and set up a free kick from the 35-yard line with 10.4 seconds to play.
Tracy then shocked Verner and Franklin by calling an onside kick, which Matt Gonzalez recovered to preserve the 18-16 victory.
Tokay jumped out to a 6-0 lead on a 4-yard run by Rudy Hernandez and controlled the tempo the entire fist half.
However, Travell George returned a punt 70 yards to paydirt and the extra point was good, providing the Yellowjackets with a 7-6 lead with just under seven minutes remaining in the opening half.
Caffese then returned the ensuing kickoff 88 yards to the Franklin 8-yard line, but a Kenny Trevillion fumble ended the threat and the half ended 7-6.
But the Yellowjackets opened the second half with a nine-play, 62-yard drive, capped by a George 1-yard touchdown jaunt.
The Tigers answered right back with a seven-play, 68-yard drive, highlighted by a Spencer Tracy 9-yard quarterback scramble on third-and-six. Trevillion finished it off with a 5-yard run.
Tokay failed on its second two-point attempt and the score stood at 14-12 before Caffese put the Tigers ahead for good on Franklin's ensuing drive.
Trevillion outgained George 127 to 115 yards and Hernandez chipped in with 70 yards on the ground as Tokay ran for 211 yards. Caffese added a 30-yard reception and finished with 173 total yards from scrimmage.
The Tigers turn ahead to St. Mary's next week, a team they have knocked out of the playoffs the past two seasons.
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