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Second-half big-plays doom Weston Ranch
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WESTON RANCH – With four minutes remaining in the third quarter Weston Ranch flexed its muscle, cutting Tokay High’s lead to 21-14, but the Tigers responded instantly with quarterback Zac McCurdy racing 80-yards on the ensuing snap, distancing Tokay for good in a 42-21 win Friday at Weston Ranch.

The Cougars (0-2) distinguished themselves as a formidable opponent in the first half, battling Tokay to a 14-6 halftime deficit and assuring the tigers they would be around for the entire 48 minutes.

“I was definitely proud of my guys, they showed true grit and grind,” Weston Ranch head coach Mike Hale said. “They never gave up. We knew coming in that we were facing some big guys and if you get pushed you’ve got to push back.

“We got pushed a little bit early, so our goal was to come out and push back.”

Tokay wasted little time getting on the scoreboard, converting on its first third-down attempt with a 42-yard touchdown strike from McCurdy to Ryan Rogero for a 6-0 lead. Weston Ranch’s next drive got the attention of everyone in the stadium, especially the Tigers.

The Cougars put together a 99-yard, 9-minute, 22-second drive, complete with seven first-down conversions. The drive culminated with a 7-yard touchdown grab by Anthony Nunez (8 receptions, 50 yards, 2 TDs) from quarterback E.J. Allen.

As valiantly as the Cougars fought the remainder of the way, Tokay asserted themselves as the more dominant team to open the second half. The Tigers drove 81 yards in 70 seconds, rebuilding a two-touchdown lead.

Weston Ranch put together their second impressive drive in response, but their 14-play, 4-minute drive would pull the Cougars as close as they would get to the Tigers.

“We are going to be a ground team this year,” Hale said. “Our thing is we want to control the clock. We definitely want the clock on our side; with 20 guys, we definitely have to try and wear down some teams.

“We showed we were in good shape tonight, because we didn’t have too many kids saying they were tired.”

When the Cougars were able to keep possession with their extended drives, it seemingly left them in position to pull out the upset. Tokay’s resiliency proved to be the deciding factor. On two separate occasions Tokay siphoned the air out of the Cougar sideline with back-breaking touchdown runs of over 80 yards. McCurdy’s third quarter scamper was the first and teammate Andrew Richards took a dive-left 97 yards after the Cougars were stopped on a fourth-and-goal attempt from the 4.

“We were never comfortable on our sideline,” Tokay head coach Louis Franklin said. “With the level of athleticism that they have they can score at any moment. And as bad as we were tackling tonight, I wasn’t comfortable at all.”

Hale and Franklin guided the Weston Ranch freshman program to a 7-2-1 record back in 2006. Hale was the head coach and Franklin the offensive coordinator. Now, Franklin is in charge of development in one of two high schools in Lodi and feels the difference in the two football communities boils down to one particular area.

“I think that the highs at Weston Ranch will be higher; we are public schools so the talent comes in waves,” Franklin said. “When they get that wave like in 2005, they are going to be OK. At Tokay, we are going to be more consistent. We are going to be in that 4-6 to 6-4 range every year.

“At Weston Ranch Mike is the perfect guy, because he’s patient, he’s great with kids. I’d love to take him over to Tokay.”

Weston Ranch has no choice but to pull upon the positives from the contest. They got a bruising performance from junior fullback Donnell Simms (12 carries, 64 yards), they competed against a playoff hopeful Tokay squad, and now the team will have to make the necessary adjustments to close out the preseason schedule with a win over the Bear Creek Bruins Friday.

“We are going to go in as a team, eat and talk about the things that we did wrong and the things we did good,” Allen said. “Hopefully we can all put it (our head) and get back to work on Monday.”