Tokay High’s winning streak came to an abrupt halt on Friday under a punishing run game and opportunistic defense from Liberty Ranch in Galt.
Hawks running back Arthur Draeger ran for 228 yards and four touchdowns on 21 carries as Liberty Ranch ran away with a 38-14 victory on Friday. Draeger was quick to credit his offensive line.
“I was seeing some good blocking, that’s what I was seeing. Pancaking the guy in front of them,” Draeger said. “It’s all on the O-line, and the defense. It’s a team effort.”
It was a rude surprise for a Tokay team that started the season 4-0, making Friday the team’s first loss under coach Collin Rhoads.
“It is a wake-up call, and it is kind of like we need to learn how to lose, and we’re going to need to remember this feeling,” Rhoads said. “You know, remember this nasty taste in our mouth for tonight, so that we could be better because of it.”
Liberty Ranch (2-1) threw just one pass in the game — incomplete — and ran the ball 42 times. Draeger led the way, but Gavin O’Brien added 47 yards on 11 carries, and quarterback Logan McCreery added a 52-yard touchdown run.
“Yeah, we had that on film, they didn’t pass,” Rhoads said. “ We knew they were going to run and they did a very good job of mixing it up.”
Two defensive plays stood out — an early goal-line stand that saw Tokay go for it on fourth down from the 5-yard line early in the second quarter, and a Carson Trefz interception near the end of the third quarter when the Hawks were up 28-7.
“If we do our jobs and coach puts me here, they there to make some plays, right?” said Liberty Ranch coach Anthony Linebaugh. “So it’s about understanding the true concept of team defense.”
After Tokay’s opening drive stalled near midfield, Liberty Ranch mounted a quick drive that ended with a 30-yard Draeger run. The Tigers then marched down the field on a 15-play drive that took the game into the second quarter, only to stall on the 5-yard line and end with a pair of incomplete passes.
Four plays later, Draeger took a handoff to the right side, then cut downhill and broke through a hole, outrunning the Tokay defense for a 74-yard touchdown run.
The teams played field position the rest of the half, and went into halftime with Liberty Ranch leading 14-0.
It took all of two plays for the Hawks to score in the third quarter, with McCreery sneaking through on a quarterback keeper for a 52-yard score. Tokay responded this time, finding the end zone on a 25-yard Branden Moreno pass to Andru Melgoza.
“We gave up more yards than I would like, but yeah, we did make some plays when we needed to,” Linebaugh said. “And that’s another characteristic, you know, good teams when you face adversity, like the goal line in the first half right there, you have to respond. There were a lot of turning points.”
Draeger punched in another touchdown to make it 28-7, and Trefz snagged his interception just before the start of the fourth quarter, putting the game out of reach.
For good measure, Liberty Ranch added a 30-yard McCreery field goal, and a 37-yard Draeger touchdown in the fourth quarter. Draeger, a junior, is off to a torrid start, with roughly 450 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns in the Hawks’ first three games.
Tokay (4-1) added one last touchdown late in the game, with a 9-yard Moreno pass to Marcus Mireles. Moreno finished 25 of 41 for 230 passing yards.
For Rhoads, it was disappointing to miss out on a perfect preseason record, but he was grateful for the wakeup call on the eve of Tri-City Athletic League play.
“We’ve got some really good guys in the trenches here, and I think they felt that they underperformed,” Rhoads said. “We’re going to need to win a lot of games in the trenches. We pride ourselves on, you know, we’re a good running team and we’re really good at defending the run, and we kind of got exposed today. We’ll go back to the drawing board, and we’ll be better because of this.”