It’s opening week for Tri-City Athletic League play, and one Lodi team has a winnable game while the other will have a battle on its hands.
Both Lodi and Tokay went 4-1 in the preseason, putting them in a good position for a potential playoff berth after a tough TCAL schedule.
Lodi will host West, which is 1-3, its lone victory coming in a 14-12 win over Mountain House. The other three games were blowout losses to Ceres, Kimball and Sonora.
Tokay, meanwhile, will travel to face Lincoln, which is 2-2 but is typically one of the strongest teams in the area.
Lodi coach George Duenas said the Flames went back to the basics a little bit during practice this week.
“We took time right here to work on fundamental stuff, things in the preseason that we felt we needed to work on,” Duenas said. “We did a lot of walkthrough this week.”
The biggest thing for him is that his squad is healthy for the most part, and he’d like to see his players stay healthy for the toughest stretch on the schedule — St. Mary’s, Tracy and Lincoln.
“I don’t want to see any mistakes. Mental mistakes is the big part,” Duenas said. “I don’t want to see our guys come out flat. We need to come out with intensity and put these guys away early.”
After watching film, Tokay coach Collin Rhoads is also hoping for a strong start against Lincoln.
“It seems like when teams would get a little momentum against them, or started off hot against them, they kind of bickered with each other,” Rhoads said. “They have a lot of good individual talent, but if we play as a team tomorrow night, we have a good shot to win this thing. But if they get out early on us, they’re a tough team to overcome. So we have to start fast.”
Tokay is coming off of its bye week, which was a relief after a big loss to Liberty Ranch to finish its preseason slate. Rhoads said the team is fairly banged up all around, but was able to get some key linemen back for league play.
There’s one more element to the Tokay-Lincoln game — Tokay defensive coordinator Josh Sitkin is a Lincoln graduate.
“It’s kind of his triumphant homecoming,” Rhoads said. “So we have to show out for him.”
Rhoads said students attending the game at Lincoln will need to show their student ID.
Farther north, both Galt and Liberty Ranch will have tough openers in the Sierra Valley Conference, with Liberty Ranch (3-1) hosting undefeated Rosemont (5-0) and Galt (1-4) traveling to undefeated Union Mine (4-0).
Liberty Ranch is coming off a blowout win over Rio Linda, while Galt finally got in the win column last Friday with a 19-18 win over Amador.
Junior running back Arthur Draeger has emerged as a star for the Hawks, with 640 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns across the four-game preseason slate. Rosemont counters with sophomore running back Michael Cherry, who racked up 729 rushing yards and six scores in the preseason.