Player of the Game (Tokay): FB Bryson Schreiner.
His Friday night was much like Tokay's as a team. Some nerves. Some mistakes (see a first-quarter fumble at Lodi's 37 yard-line.) But once Schreiner (and the Tigers) settled down, this was a tough train to slow down.
Schreiner never found the end zone, but his bullish running up the middle -- 136 yards on 16 carries, 96 of that total in the third quarter -- set the tone after halftime.
On Tokay's decisive touchdown drive to go up 21-13, Schreiner bulldozed for four straight carries -- all up the gut -- of at least 15 yards.
Player of the Game (Lodi): RB Chance Trammell.
The sophomore was Lodi's workhorse all night long, with 90 rushing yards on 20 carries. And it was no-nonsense running by Tramell, churning out positive yardage and keeping the feet moving forward.
He was instrumental on the Flames' opening drive, getting the load of the work as Lodi marched downfield impressively. (Unfortunately, the drive yielded no points.)
Quote of the Night: "We're grubbing. We're hungry. We played a hard game." -- Tokay's Gary Norwood on the team's pos-tgame destination: In'N'Out
1. Just like the coaches predicted, it all came down to mistakes.
Early on, Tokay was the sloppy club, with three first-half fumbles; two came on the Tigers' first six plays, with one on the opening snap. Tokay also gave Lodi a tiny field after a bad punt, leading to Cheo Tessaro's go-ahead score before halftime.
But the Flames made plenty of errors, too -- and each one proved costly.
Lodi missed a short field goal to walk away with nothing on a great opening drive; it then had a punt blocked to set up Tokay's first touchdown. After forcing another Tiger turnover out of halftime, on a bad pitch by Kelse DePauli-Wiltse, the Flames gave the ball right back with a David Simon interception. Tokay took the lead (for good) right after, using Clark Hunter's dazzling 44-yard run.
2. Tigers are much-improved, but much work remains.
Against a team that likes to be physical, Tokay showed it can rumble, too.
The Tigers racked up 369 yards rushing in all, only getting stronger as the game wore on. And though not forced to make many tackles in space against Lodi's downhill attack, the way Tokay's defense rallied to the ball was encouraging.
So was team's balance. Schreiner has been a revelation at fullback during his varsity debut; and with speedsters Clark Hunter (103 yards rushing, 2 TDs), Gary Norwood (2 TDs), and Travis Dart (1 TD) all gaining a year of experience, this team has a host of reliable weapons. The Tigers showed they can make plays with both power and speed.
But Tokay still has to execute better. A lot better. With four turnovers in just over one half of play, the Tigers could easily have gotten buried, had Lodi -- like Weston Ranch two weeks before -- taken full advantage of those miscues.
You can bet that league opponents (lsay, St. Mary's coming up?) won't be so generous.
3. For Lodi, Friday's loss has to hurt.
No doubt about it. Falling to your city rival, after five seasons on top, stings badly.
But Friday's game also had to be a confidence blow with league play right around the corner. With better execution, Lodi could be 2-2, but the team has still yet to play four full quarters of football.
This much is certain: the Flames' fate will be determined soon.
After Friday's non-conference date with Calaveras, SJAA play starts right off with crucial home games against Tracy and Chavez. Those were the two teams that finished directly behind second-place Lodi in league in 2011.
Even dates with bottom-feeders Franklin and Bear Creek will be tricky, coach Todd Dillon thinks.
In other words, there's a very thin margin for error now. It's gut-check time.