Michael Holst never met Rob Cozart in person until this week.
Today at the Grape Bowl, Holst’s Tokay High football team will get to know Cozart’s Patterson High squad for a few hours in the Week 0 opener. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. This is believed to be the first-ever meeting in the battle of the Tigers — Patterson’s mascot as well.
This contest serves as the final home opener for Tokay (4-6 last season) at the Grape Bowl. The school’s on-campus stadium has its artificial turf in place, but still needs to install home and visitor’s bleachers, press box and the synthetic all-weather track. According to Holst, there is a chance that the stadium could be ready in time for the Tigers’ final home game, which is Friday, Oct. 19 against defending Tri-City Athletic League champion St. Mary’s.
“We thought we were playing our final home game in the Grape Bowl last season,” Holst said about last year’s game against Downey of Modesto. “But, we’re excited to play no matter the location. We can’t wait until we have our on-campus stadium, but where we play this game doesn’t matter. We can’t control the location. We can only focus on what we do control, and that is our effort and response.”
In practices this week, Holst has been pleased with his Tigers’ efforts that have seemed to have carried over from Aug. 10 round-robin scrimmages at Edison against Atwater, Grant of Sacramento and the host Vikings. In particular on offense, which Tokay struggled against Atwater in the opening scrimmage, but found ways to move the ball against Grant and Edison.
“We’ve continued to improve this week and we streamlined our game plan to take advantage of what Patterson does on defense,” Holst said.
Tokay players showing signs of improvement, Holst pointed out, are offensive tackle/defensive end Dillion Schmidt, fullback/middle linebacker Johnny Craggs and wide receiver/free safety Joseph Filippini.
“Dillon continues to be solid all around for us,” said Holst of Schmidt. “Johnny has stepped up and made some plays for us this week. Joseph has been a stud on defense.”
Cozart, whose Tigers play at Capital Christian of Sacramento next Friday, added, “Tokay is a great program on the rise and an early road game. Will pay dividends down the way in the season.”
Patterson is now a member of the Central California Conference, consisting mostly of the Atwater and Merced schools. Last season, Patterson went 11-2 and won the Western Athletic Conference title. The Tigers won their first two Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoff games, both at home, before eventual section runner-up Oakdale spanked Patterson in the semifinals.
“Patterson was a really good football team last year,” Holst said. “At least on paper, they return a lot of linemen. They had a fair amount of sophomores playing varsity on the line last year, so those guys will already have a year of varsity under their belt.”
The Patterson Tigers’ offense and defense displays different looks, Holst noted.
“Patterson had been running a flexbone triple option attack — think Tracy or Lodi last year or similar to Georgia Tech/Navy,” said Holst of the Tigers’ offense. “Their scrimmage film showed them running a spread offense and completely operating out of shotgun. Defensively, they are an even front team and play cover 3 or variations of it. They will also bring cover 0 pressure.”
Earlier this week, Holst said he finally met Cozart face-to-face at the section’s athletic director’s meeting.
Tonight’s game is also Fox 40’s Game of the Week. According to Jim Crandell, Fox 40 sports director, the Patterson-Tokay game had 13,705 votes, which edged the Franklin of Elk Grove-McNair game that had 12,908 votes.
Johnson at Liberty Ranch
Today at 7:30 p.m., Liberty Ranch (3-7 last season) officially breaks in Hawks Stadium, the school’s new on-campus facility. The facility has an artificial turf, synthetic all-weather track, press box and home and visitor bleachers.
“There is a tremendous amount of excitement among the players, coaches, staff and student body at Liberty Ranch High, as well as the community,” said Liberty Ranch football coach and athletic director Anthony Linebaugh. “We are very thankful for the opportunity to play games on campus at a great venue. Special thanks to (Liberty Ranch Principal Joe) Saramago for his efforts and all of the community who supported the bond (passed in November 2016) to make this possible.”
Returning players this season for Liberty Ranch are quarterback Matt Hopper, wide receiver/running back/linebacker, running back/free safety Gabe Nino, offensive lineman Gabe Fernandez and tight end/linebacker Joseph Giordano.
Contact reporter Mike Bush at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter: @MBushLodiSports.