FLAMES GET SECOND WIN OF SEASON
A 49-day drought came to an end Friday for the Lodi High football team, with the help of Niko Cabrera and other Flames.
From the opening kickoff until the fourth quarter, Lodi controlled its Tri-City Athletic League game against West. That led to a 30-6 win at the Grape Bowl.
West received the game’s opening kickoff. But the Wolf Pack, after gaining 18 yards on the return, fumbled the ball that was thanks to Cabrera. The junior slot back/free safety physically removed the football out of the hands of West running back Elijah McKnight, who returned the ball on the kickoff.
“I just came head on with the guy,” Cabrera said. “I just took the opportunity to grab the ball out of his hands, stripped it and came down with it.”
The fumble recovery ignited the Flames into good field position at the Wolf Pack 34yard line. Four plays later, Lodi quarterback Logan Stout connected with brother and wide receiver Colton Stout on a 27-yard pass with only 10:23 on the clock. The extra-point kick missed, but Lodi (1-2 in the TCAL, 2-6) led 6-0.
West (1-2 in the TCAL, 3-5) almost got on the scoreboard on its first official offensive drive in the game. Thanks to runs from Wolf Pack running backs Rasheed Hunter and Adam Castellano, plus a helmet-to-helmet penalty called on the Flames, West moved to the Lodi 2, now second and goal. That’s when Cabrera, from his free safety spot, recovered a Castellano fumble at the Lodi 8.
“It was just a perfect opportunity for me to go in and make it happens,” said Cabrera of his two takeaways.
That led to the Flames’ second touchdown of the quarter. Stout scored again, this time on his feet when he crossed the plane on a 1-yard quarterback keeper. Lodi opted for a two-point conversion, but the pass was no good to leave it at 12-0 with 2:48 in the quarter.
Toward the end of the quarter going into the second, Lodi and West were guilty of a combined four turnovers; the teams had two each. But West’s second turnover led to another Lodi touchdown.
“On the defensive side of the ball, our guys have been doing a descent job of trying to poke that thing out,” said Lodi coach George Duenas of his players forcing opponents to turnover the football. “We’ve done a good job in getting turnovers, and it helped big time tonight. We had some
Marching down the field to the Flames 16-yard line, quarterback Simeon Sims tossed the ball to wide receiver Ethan Casados. But the football popped out of the Casados’ hands, as he was already in the end zone. Then Lodi inside linebacker Larry McDowell III intercepted the ball and returned it to the Flames’ 33.
“They had some big plays, but we kept them out of the end zone in the first half,” Duenas said. “We kept on fighting, staying alive. It was like a bend but don’t break mentality. We flew around tonight, defensively.”
After exchanging a turnover each, Lodi took advantage of West’s fifth turnover in the first half that led to a 20-0 halftime lead with 1:09 left in the second quarter. Sitting in the pocket, Sims threw the football that was tipped by Lodi defensive end Isaac Bishop and snatched by defensive back Nathan Shoup at the Wolf Pack 39.
Seven plays later, Stout connected with Cabrera on a 31yard touchdown pass. The Flames went for another twopoint conversion, a run, but failed.
The Flames’ final two scores came in the second half.
Starting the third quarter form its own 30, Lodi moved the football to the West 6. Not able to punch the ball in on third and goal from the Wolf Pack 6, the Flames made it 23-0 when Colton Stout booted a 23yard field with 5:50 on the clock.
Lodi had another opportunity to score again after its field goal. The Wolf Pack fumbled the ball again, this time with Lodi’s Andreas Pappas recovering the ball at the West 29. The Flames attempted another field goal, this time of 35 yards with 3:14 left in the quarter, but fell short.
The Flames’ final touchdown came in the fourth quarter with 1:55 on the clock, courtesy of another Wolf Pack turnover on loss of downs. McDowell III found the end zone on a 3-yard score. Colton Stout’s extra-point kick sailed through the uprights for what would be the final score.
The last time Lodi won was its season opener in Week 1 on Aug. 25, when it beat Ceres 360 in a non-league game.
“It feels great to bounce back from these long weeks,” Cabrera said. “Showing everyone that we are still here to play.”
In the junior varsity game, Lodi rallied to beat Los Banos 22-21. The Flames trailed 21-6 until halfway through the fourth quarter, then scored two touchdowns.
Lodi's Andreas Pappas runs the ball during the Flames’ Tri-City Athletic League game against West at the Grape Bowl on Friday. Lodi won, 30-6.
Lodi's Colton Stout gets ready to catch the ball for a touchdown as West's Elijah Mcknight defends during Lodi’s 30-6 victory on Friday at the Grape Bowl.