The Turlock High School Bulldogs (5-4, 3-1) fell just short of taking sole possession of the Central California Conference on Senior Night at Joe Debely Stadium after a 10-7 loss to the Merced High School Bears (7-2, 4-0).
With the Bulldogs loss, the stage is set for the Harvest Bowl with huge playoff implications on Nov. 7.
Early on, it appeared as though the Bulldogs were going to command the game. With 6:39 left in the first quarter, Bulldogs running back Brandon Booz scored on a 9-yard run to give Turlock a 7-0 lead.
In the second quarter, the Bulldogs nearly took a two touchdown lead after receiver Jacob Maibe scored on a pass from quarterback Bubba Moreno, but the play was called back due to offensive pass interference.
Turlock eventually turned the ball over on downs on that drive.
Through much of the rest of the first half, Turlock continued to stifle the Bears offense, including key stops in the redzone.
With 6:30 remain in the half, Maibe, playing defensive back, picked off a pass from Merced quarterback Tyrone Williams in the endzone.
Although the defense held for much of the half, it eventually broke right before the end of the second quarter.
Merced running back Jabar Byrd scored on a 40-yard run as time expired to tie the game up going into the half.
That moment proved to switch all momentum in favor of the Bears.
Weather was a huge factor all night, and neither team seemed to be able to get a drive rolling; although Merced controlled the ball most of the second half with a strong running game lead by Byrd.
Eventually the Bears were able to get some more points on the board — a 27-yard field goal by kicker Favian Prado.
Turlock had it’s chances, but couldn’t quite finish off their drives. In the third quarter, the Bulldogs fumbled the ball inside the Merced 10 yard line.
After a long night, Turlock still had an opportunity late in the fourth to win the game. With 1:19 left, the Bulldogs defense was able to hold the Bears on fourth down and take over for one final drive from their own 4 yard line.
The drive sputtered early, and after a couple of completions by Moreno, the Bulldogs fell short — falling 10-7.
The Bulldogs will now face the Pitman High School Pride (7-1, 3-1) in this year’s Harvest Bowl on Nov. 7 at Joe Debely Stadium. The Harvest Bowl is certain to have huge implications on who makes it to this year’s playoffs.
With the win, Merced is now in the driver’s seat on their road to back-to-back CCC championships. The Bears will play the Golden Valley High School Cougars (0-9, 0-4) on Nov. 7 at Golden Valley High School.
(Left to Right) Zach Moore (“Zmo”) with his father Dave and mother Jene on Senior Night.