It was a homecoming night to forget for the Turlock High School Bulldogs, who lost 20-45 to the Atwater High School Falcons Friday night.
The loss came as the Bulldogs (4-4, 0-3 CCC) could not stop the Falcons' (5-3, 2-1 CCC) running game, with nonstop sweep runs eating up yardage. When they committed to stopping the run, the Falcons passed down field and Bulldogs defenders couldn't make tackles.
“We've got to get back to fundamental football, just tackling,” said Bulldogs head coach James Peterson.
The Bulldogs were without two of their best players on Friday night, with nationally ranked tight end Pat Green out with an ankle sprain and crafty x-back Andew Lopez out with a knee issue.
Atwater set the tone early, conducting a nine-and-a-half minute long, 22 play, grinder of a touchdown drive to open the game. The Falcons converted two fourth downs on that drive, before finally scoring on a third-and-goal from the four. When the Bulldogs sold out to stop the run, they left senior running back Victor Tiscareno wide open for junior quarterback Nathan Duran's touchdown pass.
Turlock responded almost immediately, scoring in less than two minutes on five plays. A 52-yard pass from senior quarterback Sean Downs to junior running back Bubba Moreno got the Bulldogs to the half-yard line, where senior running back Jevan Hogan leaped over the pile to score. The play knotted the score at 6-all entering the second quarter, with both teams missing extra points.
The game got out of reach for Turlock in the second quarter, though, when Atwater scored 26 points largely due to Bulldog defensive breakdowns.
A third-and-15 from the 21 yard-line became a Falcons touchdown, when a Turlock defender tripped and two others missed tackles on slippery Atwater senior wide receiver Isiah Washington. On the very next play, a Bulldog wide receiver fumbled a Downs pass, giving Atwater the ball at the Turlock 32. A few plays later, senior running back Ed Kemp scored on another poorly defended sweep.
Turlock once again tried to respond quickly. On the very next play, Hogan ran 71 yards for a touchdown on an option pitch, showing his sprinter's speed and outrunning everyone along the right sideline. Downs then dove for the end zone on a two-point conversion, putting the Bulldogs within five points – 14-19 – with just 4:31 left in the half.
But Kemp would score on another 13-yard sweep run, less than two minutes later.
And though Turlock threatened to score as the half expired, reaching the 27 yard-line, two big sacks of Downs – one on fourth-and-13 from the Atwater 36 – gave the Falcons the ball at the Turlock 46 with 47 seconds in the half. A 28-yard touchdown pass from Duran to Washington, essentially as the half expired, gave the Falcons a 32-14 lead.
Atwater would stretch their lead in the third quarter, on a two-yard touchdown dive from senior running back JoJo Ochoa made possible by a 43-yard Jessie Molina sweep. Turlock would later force the first Atwater punt of the game with 6:09 to play in the third quarter. But Molina would score again before the quarter was complete, this time on a 57-yard run.
The fourth quarter was quiet until the final drive of the game, when Peterson replaced Downs with Moreno at quarterback. The move was intended to give Moreno, a junior who is the presumptive starting quarterback for next year's Bulldogs squad, some in-game experience, Peterson said. Moreno led Turlock High School to the end zone in 1:57 to score as time expired, making the final score 20-45.
The loss stings for the Bulldogs, who entered the season with playoff aspirations. The Bulldogs must win both of their two remaining games, against Buhach Colony (4-4, 2-1 CCC) and Pitman High School (5-3, 2-2 CCC), to have even a chance of making the playoffs.
Peterson says his squad has the talent to win out, despite the caliber of his opposition. He noted his squad has always played the Thunder and the Pride tough.
“We've just got to get better,” Peterson said. “Better at tackling.”
The Bulldogs will play Buhach Colony at 7:30 p.m. Friday, at Atwater High School.
The Turlock High School Homecoming Queen, Cierra Booz, was announced at halftime. Tori Borges was named as first attendant, and Jelena Bravo was named second attendant.
Photo: Alex Cantatore
The Turlock High School Homecoming Queen, Cierra Booz, was announced at halftime. Tori Borges was named as first attendant, and Jelena Bravo was named second attendant.Photo: Alex Cantatore