Lodi News-Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Mike Bush

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.

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