LODI — While the Tokay football team is in the midst of a four-game losing streak to open its season, there was reason for optimism through three quarters Friday night.
Then came a catastrophic fourth quarter.
Tokay fumbled and allowed a recovery and long run for a touchdown, could not recover a squib kick on the ensuing kickoff and never threatened Chavez again, falling 50-13 at the Grape Bowl.
Chavez outscored Tokay 24-0 in the fourth, nullifying a second quarter surge for the Tigers (the Titans led 18-13 at half) and a close third quarter.
The reeling Tigers (0-4) are allowing 55 points per game, and did not earn a turnover on defense against the Titans (3-1). Chavez, meanwhile, flourished offensively behind senior quarterback Giovanni Gonzalez – who threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more.
“We’ve got to get better at doing the little things right during the week,” Tokay coach Michael Holst said, and take that “into Friday night.”
Tokay had the ball late in the third quarter down 26-13, but fumbled the ball in Chavez territory. Malik Dominique – who also had a 34-yard TD reception via Gonzalez – grabbed it and sprinted roughly 60 yards to the end zone.
The Tigers – who have now lost three consecutive games to Stockton foes from the San Joaquin Athletic Association – did have a bright spot in the backfield.
Nathan Branco was a bruising ball carrier. Often, Chavez read a run play correctly, only to have Branco bulldoze for four, five or six yards with multiple Titans hanging off him.
Branco’s five consecutive carries for 32 yards on one drive set up a 19-yard playaction TD pass from quarterback Jacob Varney to receiver Skyler Lewis. The 5-foot-11, 200-pound Branco finished with 25 carries for 128 yards.
“The guy is dragging the pile every time. It’s fun to watch,” said Holst, who was Tokay’s defensive coordinator before taking over as head coach in 2015. “Everybody’s got to play like that.
“He’s a strong kid, he’s a tough kid, (but) a lot of that is just his mindset.”
Tokay scored both of its TDs in the second quarter, as Varney found Lewis for a second time. Varney scrambled outside of the pocket and delivered a perfect 23-yard lob to Lewis, who was drilled in the end zone but held onto the ball.
George Romero Robinson tallied two touchdowns for Chavez, as the senior tailback rumbled for a 39-yard score in the first half and a 1-yard direct snap TD out of the wildcat formation in the fourth.
Gonzalez found Rashard Stallworth for a 28-yard touchdown pass – wide-open and down the middle – in the second quarter.
Chavez has won three consecutive games over Valley, Lodi and Tokay after a season-opening loss to Mountain House. Both the Titans and Tigers (Tri-City Athletic League) have one more preseason tune-up before venturing into league play.
“We’ve got to regroup,” Holst said.