Lodi High, take center stage.
With only about half of the Sac-Joaquin Section’s high school football teams opting for a Week 0 game and a bye in Week 5, Lodi is one of the few that opted to go the other way. The Flames (1-3) will be the only Tri-City Athletic League team playing tonight when they face Bear Creek (1-3) in Stockton.
“It’s working out really good. I couldn’t imagine doing it the other way this year,” Lodi coach Robert Sperling said. “My thing is with the new rules, where there’s no more contact camp, it feels like we’re always behind the 8-ball now. The way the season’s kind of played out, it works out for the better.”
The Flames feel like they’re just hitting their stride after last week’s 40-24 win over Edison High at the Grape Bowl, and the last thing Sperling wants to do is have a break in the middle of it. Couple that with Lodi High starting its two-week break on Monday, and that adds up to a lot of interruptions.
“We’re starting to get confident, and I want to keep rolling with that. Especially with a young team, you want to keep the routine going. There’s no substitution for these guys playing on Friday night,” Sperling said. “They’re more apt to stay on the same routine, keep the intensity level up if we have a game on Friday. We’re starting to click, starting to get things done on both sides of the ball.”
Bear Creek also seems to be getting its feet under itself after starting 0-3 against Grace Davis (14-13), Tokay (35-21) and Weston Ranch (71-14). The Bruins notched a 35-16 win at Vallejo on Sept. 16 before entering their bye week.
In Bear Creek, Lodi’s double-wing offense will have to content with a defensive front almost tailored to fit — the Bruins’ 6-2 front. With six down linemen and two linebackers, the Bear Front as it is known, will have eight players in the box ready for Lodi running back Cole Carouba, who went for 183 rushing yards and three touchdowns in the Edison win.
“It’s a difficult front to deal with. If you get to the second level, you can break one,” Sperling said. “You also have to be able to pass, because they’re daring us to. They’re going to have eight to 10 guys in the box, so we have to be able to get to the second level.”
A lot of the will fall on the offensive line to slow the human wave attack at the line of scrimmage, but other players will be asked to block as well. With Edison throwing everything it had at the line last week, Lodi has a point of reference.
“Now we’re able to tell our guys look, if you do your job, get to your blocks, the fullback in this system is a fullback. We’re not asking him to dance and make moves, but to stay on a track,” Sperling said. “The wings have to be able to block and get physical. If everybody does their job, the big plays will come. I think it took us three weeks for them to understand that.”
On the other side of the ball, Bear Creek will bring a power I-back system designed to establish the run before going to the pass.