With three games remaining, it’s crunch time for local football teams, and neither Lodi or Tokay have easy matchups.
Tokay (5-2, 1-1 in the Tri-City Athletic League) will hit the road to Stockton tonight to face St. Mary’s (5-2, 2-0), the perennial TCAL champion, and Lodi (5-2, 1-1) will host Tracy (3-4, 0-2).
Tokay coach Collin Rhoads told his players last week that St. Mary’s isn’t invincible after Lodi’s 28-18 loss to the Rams. He was able to glean some things from the game film.
“Us and Lodi run two completely different offenses and defenses, and teams prepare for Lodi’s wing-T differently from our spread,” Rhoads said. “Lodi played with them because they were getting after it, and playing through the whistle.”
Tokay is coming off of a blowout victory over West, which saw six different players score touchdowns. Rhoads is hoping his squad can put together a few more performances like that.
“It’s do or die time now. We’re entering our last three weeks, and we’re going to have to win all these things,” Rhoads said “Our strength of schedule, our preseason, we’re going to have to get one of those at-large bids if we don’t win these next three. This is the most important part of our schedule. But we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. St. Mary’s is the most important game on our schedule because they’re our next game.”
The Tigers are, for the most part, healthy going into tonight’s game. Andru Melgoza is back after missing last week’s game, and running back Barrett Crosby returns after being held out the second half of last week’s game with a thigh bruise.
As for Lodi’s opponent, that 3-4 record of Tracy’s is misleading.
“They’ve been playing a tough schedule. They lost to very good playoff teams,” Lodi coach George Duenas said. “Kimball, which is legit this year, Vacaville, which looks like they’ll have a first round bye in Division II. Honestly, I believe that for both teams to get in the playoffs, they’ve got to win the game this week. The other one will be fighting like hell to get in. Whoever wins this one kind of locks in that playoff spot.”
The Flames are hurting after last week’s loss to St. Mary’s — in more ways than one. First, Mason Stout went down with a broken collarbone and is done for the season. And two, Duenas felt it was a winnable game.
“We believe that we let one go. We had the opportunity to win that game. But each week is preparing us for the next game, so that was just a great learning experience — we have to be able to make those plays in other games.”
Tracy will also bring a run-heavy game to face Lodi, which prides itself on its ability to gain yards on the ground.
“They have some guys Their fullback is pretty good, their quarterback does their triple option pretty well, and No. 8, I can’t remember his name, he’s good for them,” Duenas said. “Both styles will look to ground it out, control the ball, so we’ll definitely have to make some plays early and get up a couple of scores on these guys.”
Farther north, Galt and Liberty Ranch both have undefeated opponents this week. Galt (1-6, 0-2 in the Sierra Valley Conference) will host Bradshaw Christian (7-0, 2-0), and Liberty Ranch (3-3, 0-2) will play Union Mine (6-0, 2-0) on the road.