The Turlock Bulldogs and Modesto Panthers were both 3-0 going into one of the state’s oldest rivalries, the “Little Big Game.”
Friday night at Joe Debely Stadium was an emotional one despite the teams are not in the same conference anymore. Modesto was ranked #1 and picked to beat Turlock by the Modesto Bee Sports Editor Richard T. Estrada.
Turlock had 1950 graduate and football star Paul Larson as their honorary captain as an emotional uplift. Paul Larson was part of a Turlock Bulldogs 20 game win streak back that included 6 shut out games back in his day. Larson was also named California’s Player of the Year by CalHiSports after his 1949 season when Turlock beat Modesto in the traditional Turlock vs. Modesto Thanksgiving Day Game. After high school football Larson played for Cal, had nation high passing numbers, and was nominated for the Heisman Trophy in 1954 where he came in 5th place.
After Honorary Captain Larson participated at the coin toss to begin the game, the Turlock Bulldogs kicked off to the receiving Modesto Panthers. The game never let up from the start.
The Modesto Panthers had a solid first drive including 10 plays and a 25 yard QB Klayton Miller touchdown pass to Arquel Rogers in the first quarter.
Turlock answered back with a 54 yard touchdown pass by Kevin Kramer to Half Back Ricky Fuentes as the game was tied 7-7 with 3:57 left in the 2nd quarter.
Panthers’ Miller threw an 80 yard touchdown pass to James Waters late in the 2nd to make the score 14-7.
Turlock Kicker Dominic Breshears missed a field goal attempt right at the end of the first half.
Turlock’s QB Kramer ran a 7 yards, diving for the corner and scoring Turlock’s second touchdown making the score 14-14 with 3:46 left in the 3rd quarter.
Kramer then scored on another 9 yard running touchdown early in the 4th.
Later in the 4th, Turlock drove down the field ending up at 4th and goal, only 2 yards away from a touchdown that would have ended the game differently than it did.
QB Kramer and his offense were on the field ready to go for the score when Turlock coaching decided to go for the field goal instead.
Breshears missed the field goal for Turlock and would make the game even more intense than it already was with about 2 minutes left in the game and Modesto is known for their speed and explosiveness.
Modesto’s threat was more than that; they came right after with an 80 yard touchdown pass from Miller to Geoff Washington. After the extra point, the score was 21-21 with 1:59 left in the game.
Turlock’s QB Kramer drove his offense up the field, carrying it himself most of the way, and setup the team for a field goal attempt.
Nerves were tense as Breshears had missed two field goals already and one just a couple minutes before.
Brehears came in and kicked the 28 yard field goal to give Turlock a 24-21 lead over Modesto.
Modesto couldn’t do anything the 6 seconds they had left in the game and Turlock (4-0) upset Modesto (3-1) in a good game from both teams’ offenses and defenses.
Turlock QB Kramer had 21 carries, 156 yards and HB Ricky Fuentes had 9 carries, 155 yards.
The Turlock Historical Society will be showing a color film of the 1949 Turlock vs. Modesto Thanksgiving Day game edited with play-by-play by long-time Turlock announcer Bud Leam and other production to make it entertaining on Tuesday, September 21st at 7pm at Covenant Village of Turlock located at 2125 N. Olive Avenue. This event is open to the public and fans of all eras and both teams are encouraged to attend wearing their school colors.