This Friday at 7 p.m. the No. 19-ranked, according to MaxPreps.com, Pitman High Pride (7-1, 3-1) and the Turlock High Bulldogs (5-4, 3-1) will clash at Joe Debely Stadium for the 11th Annual Harvest Bowl.
As the case always seems to be during the Harvest Bowl, both teams have a lot at stake, besides the bragging rights.
The game could determine which team makes the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs — here is what is at stake.
While it appears likely the Pride will earn a playoff berth with 7 overall wins, the Central California Conference only has two automatic entries into the playoffs. Currently both the Pitman and Turlock are tied for second behind No. 6-ranked Merced High Bears (7-2, 4-0) with one CCC loss apiece — both to Merced.
The CCC Champion will be the Bears, barring the upset of the century to the winless Golden Valley Cougars on Friday.
That leaves only one guaranteed playoff berth for either Pitman or Turlock.
While the game is a must-win for both teams, it is even more so for Turlock. With 5 overall wins, anything but a victory Friday would make it unlikely for the Bulldogs to make the playoffs.
Keys to victory
Throughout the non-league and CCC season, both teams have shown their best and worst attributes — the Bulldogs have a clear and absolute resiliency that never puts them out of a game, no matter what the circumstances.
The Pride have their steadfast allotments of talented running backs behind a lion’s share of talent on their fierce defense, which over the course of the season is the best in the CCC.
The Pride certainly have a very talented, athletic roster on both sides of the ball with weapons like running back Blake McBay, receiver/ kicker Donovan Bravo, quarterback Matt Carrigg, defensive back AJ Cheney, linebackers Micah Millentree and Quinton Coelho, and defensive lineman Lorenzo Carrera.
With the CCC’s top-ranked defense, allowing on 17.8 points per game, the Pride can frustrate opposing offenses. However, their offensive wing-t running attack can be slowed down if opposing teams remain disciplined and stay at home thru the myriad of fakes and cutbacks of the wing-t.
To beat the Bulldogs, the Pride will have to play poised, patient football — especially on the offensive end. They will have to give the Bulldogs a steady diet of McBay mixed in with some trick plays along with slants and deep passes from Carrigg to Bravo.
On defense, the Pride will have to limit the Bulldogs ability to stretch the field and make big-yardage plays. Mostly, they will have to play physically hard defense and find a way to stop the quickness of Bulldogs quarterback Bubba Moreno.
The Pride are a young team, with mostly juniors as star players, and their resolve can be tested at times. First and foremost to beat the Bulldogs they simply cannot turn the ball over and make mental mistakes. Their massive loss to Merced illustrated how this team, if rattled hard enough by their own mistakes, will simply give up the contest.
The Bulldogs play fierce, punishing football and simply never give up in a game. The Bulldogs have lost four games by a combined total of 11 points.
For what they lack in overall athletic talent, they make up for with heart and true grit — they literally walk out onto the field to the slow, threatening voice of Johnny Cash and they play like it. These boys can play with anyone, anywhere.
On Offense, the clear stars are quarterback Bubba Moreno and running back Andrew Lopez. Moreno is one of the best players in the CCC. The Bulldogs have the second best scoring offense in the CCC, trailing only Merced. Per game the Bulldogs are scoring nearly 5 touchdowns a game.
Those 35 points per game mean something — this team is never out of a game — as evidence of their numerous come-from behind victories this season.
With Moreno at the helm, the offense includes workhorse running efforts from Lopez, along with receivers Jeffery Hines and Jacob Mabie.
The biggest threat to the Bulldogs would seem to be their defense, which yields almost 4 touchdowns per game. However, it isn’t so much the defense as it is the team’s overall discipline in all aspects of the game, including special teams. Flatly, the Bulldogs play with tons of heart, and sometimes that can mean tons of mental mistakes in the form of penalties.
To beat the Pride, the Bulldogs will need to play with their usual tenacity, minus the mistakes. The Pride are too good of a team to give them second chances and more opportunities.
On offense Moreno and Lopez will need stellar efforts and the receivers must catch balls. Many of Moreno’s passes have fallen in and out of the hands of receiver for first downs this season. Again, its the small things with the Bulldogs, who seem to swallow their food without chewing.
Clearly this is a must-win if the Bulldogs have a hope for the playoffs. This game will likely be close whoever wins — as it seems to always be. It will be an epic showdown between two very good teams with the capability to go deep in the playoff if they play like they are capable.
Tickets for the Harvest Bowl are $7 for adults and $5 for children and seniors. They can be purchased at either school during school hours in the office.