The Turlock High Bulldogs (4-3, 2-0) were able to hold off the Buhach Colony Thunder (3-4, 0-2) to win 48-47 in a back-and-forth battle at Joe Debely Stadium on Friday night.
The Bulldogs were able to stop a 2-point conversion attempt by the Thunder with 7 seconds left to clinch the hard-fought victory.
As the Bulldogs were set to receive the opening kickoff, the Thunder snuck in an onside kick, but Turlock was able to quickly force a three-and-out.
On their first drive of the game, Bulldog quarterback Bubba Moreno hit a 48-yard pass to tight end Bear Padilla that set up a score by running back Brandon Booz from 3 yards out.
The Bulldogs took an early lead, 6-0, after a missed PAT with 9:05 left in the first quarter.
However, the lead didn’t last long, as the Thunder came rolling on the ensuing drive behind the legs of running back Justin Stefani, who scored on a 54-yard run through the Bulldog defense with 5:45 remain in the first quarter. A successful PAT gave the Thunder a 7-6 lead.
Turlock then scored on a 26-yard touchdown run from Moreno and successful 2-point conversion.
Following the Bulldog touchdown, Turlock recovered a Thunder fumble at their own 31 yard line late in the first quarter. That turnover lead to another Bulldog touchdown — this time a 1-yard run by running back Andy Jennings.
The game looked like it was getting away from Buhach, but on the ensuing kickoff all of the moment shifted to the Thunder on a 95-yard touchdown return by Thunder running back Aundre Sherman. 21-14 Bulldogs.
Buhach struck again after a failed fake punt by the Bulldogs on a 10-yard run by Sherman with 5 minutes left in the half.
The game would be deadlocked at 21 all going into the half.
In the start of the second half, penalties, which haunted Buhach all night, prevented a huge third-down conversion. Penalties put the Thunder into a 3rd-and-22 and an ineligible receiver downfield call wiped out a successful first down conversion.
The Bulldogs quickly capitalized with runs of 26 yards and 10 yards from Booz — the latter leading to another Bulldog touchdown. 28-21 Bulldogs with 8:07 left in the third quarter.
Buhach answered back to tie the game on a 28-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Nate Duran to big receiver Darius Mack.
Another failed fake punt by the Bulldogs gave the Thunder good field position and led to a 10-yard run by Stefani, giving Buhach a 34-28 lead after a missed PAT with 1:34 left in the third quarter.
However, neither team could hold onto the lead for long and the Bulldogs fought back — with Moreno and Padilla connecting for a 14-yard touchdown in the corner of the endzone.
With the Bulldogs looking to take the lead, the PAT bounced off the right upright to fall no good. 34-34 with 11:52 left in the game.
The Bulldog defense stepped up in the fourth quarter, holding Buhach on a 4th-and-2 and forcing a turnover on downs.
Turlock struck quickly on a 39-yard pass from Moreno to Padilla. Moreno avoided a near-sack and found Padilla along the sideline. 41-34 Bulldogs with 6:17 left.
On the ensuing kickoff, Turlock’s gamble paid off, as the Bulldogs recovered an onside kick.
Two plays later, Jennings found paydirt again — this time on a 44-yard burst up the middle.
With 6 minutes remaining, the Bulldogs looked to put the final nail in the coffin. Already leading by 14, Turlock attempted another onside kick, however the ball rolled out of bounds to give Buhach good field position.
The Thunder capitalized, successfully converting two fourth downs and ending the drive on a 2-yard keeper from Duran. 48-41 Turlock with 2:45 remaining.
Turlock had a chance to put the game away with less than two minutes remaining, but a dropped pass on a key third down gave the Thunder life.
However, to win this game, the Thunder would have to travel 92 yards down the field to find the endzone with 1:45 remaining.
The Bulldogs had another chance to put the game away, but the Thunder were able to convert a 4th-and-11 on an 18-yard pass from Duran to Stefani down to the Bulldogs 10-yard line.
Turlock continued to give Buhach life, as the defense was called for encroachment when the Thunder attempted to spike the ball with 11 seconds remaining.
On the next play, Duran hit Sherman for a 5-yard touchdown with 7 ticks remaining. Everyone expected overtime — except for the Buhach coaching staff.
The Thunder elected to go for 2 — and the win.
However, the Bulldogs wouldn’t let that happen and were able to prevent the Thunder from getting in the endzone.
Bulldogs were able to hold off the last second efforts of the Thunder to win 48-47.
After a tough non-conference schedule, the Bulldogs have pulled back-to-back victories at the start of league play. Turlock will now face the Atwater High School Falcons at Joe Debely Stadium on Oct. 24.
The Buhach Thunder seemed be happy to leave Joe Debely, where they lost to the Pitman Pride last week, followed by the tough loss to the Bulldogs on Friday night, but now have to face the Merced Bears that devoured the Pride on Friday night 47-6.