Coming into the 2014 season home-opener for Turlock High School, few expected a Bulldog victory over one of the region’s most storied high school football programs, the Clovis West Golden Eagles (2-1).
Of course, Turlock Head Coach James Peterson knew his team could beat the Golden Eagles, even when they trailed 21-0 early in the second quarter.
“Looking at game tape I knew we could beat them,” he nonchalantly said after the game.
The Bulldogs (2-1) faced a long night in the dog house at Joe Debely Stadium when they were backed up against their own 26-yard line facing a punt situation on a fourth-and-5, down by 21 points with just minutes left in the first half.
A fake punt play was called from the sideline and quarterback Bubba Moreno completed a pass for a first down, but it was called back on a penalty. The Bulldogs simply had to punt on their next attempt to stop the bleeding…right?
But you can’t keep a good dog down.
On the next play, another fake punt was called and this time Moreno streaked up the middle of the field for a 25-yard gain and Bulldogs’ first down.
This singular play gave the seemingly dying ‘Dogs a heartbeat, and a few plays later running back Andy Jennings plunged ahead for a 4-yard touchdown with just one minute left in the first half, cutting the deficit to 21-7 Clovis West.
Despite digging themselves a huge hole, the Bulldogs continued to claw in the third quarter thanks to a tremendous defensive effort from players like Mustafa Johnson — who had a huge sack to force a Golden Eagles turnover on downs with just under six minutes to go in the third quarter.
Still trailing 21-7 the Bulldogs clipped into the Golden Eagles’ lead when Moreno connected with receiver Jeffery Hines for a 55-yard completion down to the Golden Eagles’ 2-yard line on the first play of the fourth quarter. The play set up an eventual Moreno to Allen Padilla touchdown pass. A failed two-point conversion left the score 21-13.
From that point on, the game became the Hines “catch him if you can” show. On the Golden Eagles’ ensuing possession, Hines, playing defensive back, intercepted a pass and returned it to the Golden Eagles’ 20-yard line. Then a few plays later Hines caught a 13-yard TD pass from Moreno. A successful two-point conversion pass from Moreno to Padilla tied the game 21-21 with 7:39 left.
After the defense forced a Golden Eagles punt, the Bulldogs regained the ball at their own 43-yard line with 6:42 remaining in the game.
This is when Moreno’s senior leadership took over the game. He led the Bulldogs on an 11-play, 57-yard drive capped off with a 2-yard TD pass to Padilla to give the Bulldogs their first and final lead of the game. A missed extra point try made the score 27-21 and left the door open for a soaring Golden Eagle comeback with just under two minutes in the game.
Of course the Bulldogs’ defense and lineman Zevey Lopez had something to say about that. Any threat of a comeback by the Golden Eagles in the final minutes was quickly dashed when he set the tone early with a 5-yard sack. The Bulldogs never allowed another yard and won the game.
The game was a testament to the will and patience of Coach Peterson and his staff.
In the second half his defense gave up less than 20 yards of offense to the Golden Eagles and played perhaps the finest stretch of two-and-a-half quarters of defensive football against a highly talented offensive team.
Peterson said in the first half his defense essentially fell back and “did it on purpose” to fool the Golden Eagles into continuing an obvious focus on underneath passing plays. Then they switched their coverage and grounded the Golden Eagles passing attack.
“Hats off to the defense, we just let them play and they responded,” said Peterson.
While the Bulldogs did pull off a huge come-from-behind win, it should be noted they committed a tremendous amount of penalties and the team often made mental mistakes. While they won this game mistakes and penalties can cost them when they play teams in the Central California Conference.
With that being said, the Bulldogs always play extremely hard for Peterson and play with a sense of gusto and urgency when their backs are against the wall.
With the win, the Bulldogs have put themselves in the conversation as a serious threat to win the CCC this year. The seemingly universal favorite, Merced High, fell to Clovis West 44-34 in week one of the season.
Moreno completed 12 of 17 passes for 136 yards and rushed for 76 yards on 16 carries. Workhorse Andrew Lopez carried the ball 14 times for 54 yards and Brandon Booz logged 5 carries for 29 yards. Also, Zach Moore had 2 carries for 3 yards, however one of his carries was on a crucial first down play during the Bulldogs’ go ahead score in the fourth quarter.
Next week the Bulldogs will travel to take on the Modesto High Panthers at Downey High School.
The Bulldogs JV team also won, 28-20.
Video Courtesy of BlackHat Football