It's an age-old rivalry. Well, at least a decade-old rivalry.
And this week, the next chapter of Turlock's biggest cross-town contest will be written.
The Turlock Bulldogs will take on the Pitman Pride at 7:30 p.m. Friday, in one of the most anticipated Harvest Bowl match-ups in recent history.
Why? Because of that one, most magical word in sports: playoffs.
Both the Pride (6-3, 1-1 CCC) and the Bulldogs' (5-4, 1-3 CCC) postseason chances hinge on their Friday performance.
Pitman would be guaranteed a playoff berth with a win and a Buhach Colony loss. Turlock remains a long-shot for a playoff spot, but could still make it with a six-win season. And with just one game to go and five wins to their name, it's win now or go home for the Bulldogs.
So who's going to win? Who's headed to the playoffs?
Like most Harvest Bowls through history, it's tough to tell. Both schools usually play their best games at the Harvest Bowl, despite how the season may have gone.
Comparing schedules, the teams seem similar. Turlock defeated Buhach Colony, but the Thunder shut-out Pitman earlier in the season. Conversely, Pitman bested Atwater, while the Bulldogs lost big against the Falcons.
The Pride have passed the eye-test down the stretch, with a stifling defense and a running game that can be absolutely murderous if it gets going. But Pitman will likely be playing without star running back Mario Lewis, who injured his knee last Friday against Golden Valley.
Turlock, on the other hand, seemed to be slumping due to injuries. But a near full-strength Bulldogs roster shined last week, stunning the highly-regarded Buhach Colony Thunder with a 49-31 win.
“This is everything we’ve worked for summed up in a single game,” said Turlock head coach James Peterson after the win. “It was a team victory from the water boy to the coaches and staff. We never stopped believing in what we can do.”
That victory was a huge motivator for the Bulldogs, Peterson said, and showed the team can claim a Harvest Bowl victory. That's despite Turlock's historical struggles in the game, winning only two of the nine Harvest Bowls played – in 2008 and 2010.
High school football gurus MaxPreps.com say Pitman is the better team – and the 158th best team in the state. Turlock's ranking sits at No. 279.
But at the end of the day, after all the pomp and circumstance about cross-town rivalries, it all comes down to the basics, Pitman Head Coach Tom Tyler said.
“It's just a football game we need to win,” Tyler said.