Fast-forward to the final 40 minutes of Friday’s Tokay-Lodi boys soccer game at the Grape Bowl.
That is because all of the scoring took place between the two rivals. Tokay, the defending Tri-City Athletic League champions, escaped with a thrilling 2-1 victory.
Tiger striker Alfonso Ochoa recorded the first goal of the game in the 58th minute. After he, teammates and Lodi players battled for the ball in front of the Flames’ box, Ochoa found the soccer ball in front of him on the left side 15 yards out. He booted the ball that sailed into the right corner of the net for a 1-0 score.
“I told him ‘we need a goal, we need a spark,’” said Tokay coach Ruben Gomez of a halftime pep talk with Ochoa. “That’s exactly what he did. Every time he touched the ball, it seemed like he created something. It was just the little spark that we needed and he provided that.”
After his goal, Ochoa turned to the crowd, and looked for the Tokay fans in the stands. Then he raised the top part of his jersey, and Ochoa’s teammates surrounded him after the bulk of the Tokay fans cheered him.
Two minutes later, Tokay (2-0-1 in the TCAL, 9-1-1) made it 2-0. This time midfielder Edurado Guillen, with an assist from teammate Lionardo Ruiz. Guillen lined up his shot in the middle of the box and near Lodi goalie Julian Lopez, who had ran to the front of the box. That gave Guillen time to line-drive his shot for the goal.
Guillen, too, turned to the Tokay crowd, raised the top part of his jersey. Ruiz and other Tiger teammates circled Guillen in celebration.
But Lodi (1-1 in the TCAL, 3-9) was able to secure its only goal of the game in the 69th minute, thanks to a Tokay foul near the front of the Tigers’ box. Lodi forward Guillermo Barron lined up in the center for the penalty kick, driving the soccer ball into the left corner of the net for a 2-1 score.
“Tokay is a very strong team,” said Lodi assistant coach Bob Lauchland. “Tokay has a solid defense. We just didn’t get the opportunities we would’ve liked.”
Gomez added, “They (Lodi) got a lot of momentum there. They got some energy. That just brought them back to life.”
Ruiz, who had 11 of the Tigers’ 18 shots on goal in the game, and Tiger midfielder Mathew Salas each had a shot on goal in the 70th and 73rd minutes of the contest. Ruiz’s shot was from 20 yards that Lopez caught in the air. Salas’ opportunity was by using his head to get the ball into the net, which Lopez pulled in another save.
The first half was about the Tigers and the Flames’ defense. Ruiz had half of his shots on goal in the first 40 minutes. Lodi had moved the ball near the Tigers’ net and had some shots near the box that Tiger goalie Cristian Valencia let it watch sail in either the right or left sides.
“That’s when the team really stepped up,” Lauchland said. “I’m really proud of those guys.”
Gomez added, “They should be able to bury them.”
The Flames’ strong play on defense was contributed to forwards Yobani Osorio and Brendon Duran, Lauchland pointed out.
“Just some real solid effort,” Lauchland said.
The game was moved to the Grape Bowl because of field conditions at Lodi’s on-campus field, which is a grass field and stadium lights. The field was considered unplayable because of the rain storms that hit the region earlier this week.
“I was happy we were coming over here,” said Gomez, who was referring to the Grape Bowl. “I feel bad for them because they have a nice facility.”
Tokay continues TCAL action at Hubbard Field against St. Mary’s next Wednesday. Lodi will play at Tracy, also next Wednesday.
Contact Mike Bush at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter: @MBushLodiSports.