Friday’s 41-40 Tokay victory over West at Hubbard Field was all about offense, with Tokay running back Joseph “Flip” Filippini leading the way at 272 yards and five touchdowns on 35 carries.
But when the game was on the line, it came down to a defensive stop to give the Tigers their first victory on their new turf field.
Tokay held a 41-34 lead when West quarterback Alfred Robinson IV found receiver Nathan Nelson dragging across the back of the end zone. With 2 minutes, 6 seconds remaining, West went for a 2-point conversion to end the game.
But when Robinson stepped right, he found the edge cut off by Bradley Handel. He dove forward, crashing into a wall of defenders led by Haseem Khan, and came up short.
“You’re on the road, you want to go for the ‘W’ and go home,” said West coach Charles Spikes, who stepped in as the top coach while head coach Steven Wichman was at his sister’s wedding. “You don’t want to play for overtime, don’t want to leave it up to chance. I believed in my kids, and we were going to go get it right now.”
Tokay (2-5, 1-1 in the Tri-City Athletic League) ran out the clock with four straight Filippini runs. Tokay coach Michael Holst said he probably would have made the same decision that Spikes made.
“Yeah. I probably would have. I was surprised they ran the play they did,” Holst said. “I thought they were probably going to throw the ball, it’s kind of what we designed. We were going to bring pressure, then we decided no, let’s play base, and it worked out.”
Tokay got on the board first, but not before a scare from West (1-6, 0-2) when an interception return for a touchdown was called back due to a roughing penalty. After a long Tokay drive, Filippini scored the first of his five touchdowns — a 2-yard waltz, untouched, into the end zone.
He again ran up the middle untouched for a 3-yard score early in the second quarter, after a Tokay fumble recovery. Filippini put all the credit on his offensive line.
“It’s not just me doing all this, it’s our line, our receivers working together, our team pushing through,” Filippini said. “We put in work every week. It feels great running the ball knowing my line is going to open up holes for me.”
West fought back with a touchdown run from Amari Henderson, and a 9-yard scramble from Robinson to close the gap, but a missed extra-point attempt left Tokay up by one point with 2:49 left in the first half.
Then things went haywire, with the teams combining for 27 points in the last 2:49 of the first half — a Filippini run for Tokay, a 61-yard touchdown pass from Robinson to Elijah McKnight for West, and a 26-yard Henderson run for West after an interception.
“It’s nice when we’re scoring, but it’s tough when we’re not playing well defensively,’ Holst said. “We were up 21-13, and we didn’t get that onside kick, and I think we didn’t respond well to adversity of not getting it.”
Tokay evened the score halfway through the third quarter on a 3-yard Jacob Varney quarterback keeper, but West responded with a kickoff return that saw Henderson field the short kickoff at the 27-yard line and pitch it back to McKnight, who ran it all the way.
Tokay tied the game again on a 7-yard Filippini run up the middle, then forced a three-and-out and a punt. The Tigers drove 57 yards on five straight Filippini runs, culminating in his fifth touchdown of the night — just like the rest of them, up the middle with little resistance.
Then came West’s final drive and Robinson’s touchdown, and the doomed two-point try.
“We were struggling to stop them defensively, but they were also struggling to stop us, so I liked our chances right there on the goal line,” Spikes said. “We came real close, and I’m real proud of my kids and their effort.”
Filippini accounted for almost all of Tokay’s offense, with Cameron Taylor adding 58 yards on the ground and Varney adding 37 yards on seven carries. Varney and Ty Didonato combined to go 1-for-5 in passing, with 0 yards and one interception.
West was more balanced, with 170 yards on 16 carries from Henderson, 11 completions on 16 attempts from Robinson — including hitting on his last nine attempts — for 208 yards and one interception, and 166 of those yards going to McKnight on six catches.