Now the action picks up for the four Lodi area high school football teams.
Today, Tokay and Lodi will kick-off Tri-City Athletic League at home and on the road, respectively. Galt and Liberty Ranch also begin Sierra Valley Conference action.
Both Tokay and Lodi’s games are scheduled to start at 7:15 p.m. Galt and Liberty Ranch have 7:30 p.m. start times.
Today at the Grape Bowl, Tokay (0-5) has its homecoming and league opener against Tracy (3-2). The Tigers and Bulldogs had their byes last week.
During its bye week, Tokay got back to basics. The only difference was that the Tigers practiced only three days.
“We went a little bit lighter in terms of mid-season; time-wise and body-wise,” said Tokay coach Michael Holst. “We watched some film early in the week. We concentrated on ourselves.”
One of those areas that the Tigers worked on fundamental skills was playing defense. The Tigers have given up an average of 53.6 points per game in five games.
“We’ve got to tackle better. We’re not swarming to the ball. We’re giving up a lot of big plays,” Holst said.
Tokay will face a Tracy team that shows strength in its offensive game; the Bulldogs have averaged 44 points per game, which is the best in the league. The Bulldogs’ defense, however, has given up 28.6 points per game.
“From the three games we’ve seen of them, they’re pretty balanced,” said Holst of his team viewing the Bulldogs in game films. “They are going to be the best team we’ve played so far.”
Looking for its first win of the season, the Tigers are hoping that homecoming will give them an extra boost against a very worthy opponent.
“I tell them that the main event for homecoming is the Friday night football game,” Holst said. “That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun doing all of the spirit days and everything (else) during the week.”
Leading the Tigers in different categories is quarterback Jacob Varney, only a sophomore, who has completed 26 of 55 passes for 379 yards and three touchdowns. Fullback Nathan Branco has rushed for 418 yards on 87 carries and three touchdowns. Skyler Lewis has 124 yards receiving on nine receptions and two touchdowns. On defense, sophomore free safety Joseph Filippini has 32 tackles.
Before its bye last week, Tokay played its final non-league game at McNair. Although they jumped out to an 8-6 lead, the host Eagles flew to a 48-14 win over the Tigers.
On the road again, Lodi (1-4) takes on Lincoln (0-5). Lodi first-year coach George Duenas warns Flame fans of the Trojans’ winless mark.
“Don’t let their record fool you,” Duenas said. “They played some real juggernauts.”
Lincoln’s five non-league opponents — Inderkum of Sacramento, Central Catholic, Vintage of Napa, Pitman of Turlock and Antioch — have a combined record of 23-4.
In this week’s practices, the Flames have made very little changes in terms of preparing for their TCAL opener.
“The team has been taking each week one day at a time,” Duenas said.
The start of league plays also means Lodi, plus Tokay, Galt and Liberty Ranch, have their varsity rosters that seniors, as well as juniors and sophomores in place. Juniors who are playing on a school’s junior varsity football team can be moved up to the varsity level after league play begins, but must stay on that team through the rest of the season.
Two players who Duenas has moved to the varsity are linebacker Noah McGregor and offensive lineman Gabe Giagioni.
“The kids have been competing; they have been working hard,” Duenas said.
Lodi enters tonight’s TCAL opener with the second-highest ranking offense among the six schools; averaging 27.2 points per game. But the Flames’ defense has been burned for 31.6 points per game.
Lodi fullback Larry McDowell III leads the ground game; 398 yards on 71 carries. Quarterback Logan Stout has completed 23 of 48 passes for 375 yards and four touchdowns. On defense, McDowell III and Myles Lozano have 37 tackles each.
In its final pre-season game at Bear Creek on Sept. 21, Lodi rallied in the second half. But the host Bruins hung on to post a 40-35 win over the Flames. Lodi has played three of its last four games on the road.
Today in Placerville, Galt (4-1) opens SVC action at El Dorado (1-4), which won a share of the conference title with Cordova last fall. Cordova is now in the Greater Sacramento League.
If Galt needs some motivation going into its conference opener, the next sentence could serve as one of them. The last time Galt beat El Dorado in football was Oct. 29, 2010 at Warrior Stadium, when the Warriors posted a 42-0 win over the Cougars.
Junior quarterback Robert Bulahan Jr. has completed 44 of 86 passes for 736 yards and 13 touchdowns for the Warriors in five games. Running back Jonah Delrio and Anthony Sanchez have rushed for 491 and 385 yards respectively. Sanchez has scored six times.
Marcelo Lopez is one of the Warriors’ deep threats; he’s hauled in 243 yards on 13 receptions and six touchdowns. Junior Ethan Reece has booted 24 extra-points. On defense, Galt defensive back Zachary Cirac leads the team with 16 tackles,
Playing their final preseason game at Franklin of Stockton, also on Sept. 21, the Warriors jumped out to a 35-7 halftime lead and put a 49-13 sting on the Yellowjackets.
Playing its first-ever conference home game at Hawk Stadium, Liberty Ranch (2-3) has the honors of taking on new SVC member Bradshaw Christian (3-2). The two programs have never played each other in pre-season since Liberty Ranch, Galt’s second high school, opened its doors in 2009.
Running back Gabriel Nino leads the Hawks in rushing with 604 yards, second among all SVC rushers, and four touchdowns. He also has 197 receiving yards and two more touchdowns. Quarterback Matthew Hopper has completed 17 of 44 passes for 333 yards and four touchdowns. On defense, Liberty Ranch linebacker Rosalio Lopez has 26 tackles. There are eight Hawk players who have tackles in double-digits.
Before having its bye last week, Liberty Ranch, Galt’s second high school, rallied to post a 34-33 win over Laguna Creek of Elk Grove at Cosumnes River College in Sacrament on Sept. 14.
Contact reporter Mike Bush at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter: @MBushLodiSports.