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A look back at local prep sports

POSTED December 29, 2009 10:53 p.m.
Sometimes I like to repeat myself, and I’m going to do just that here: High school sports are the purest form of sports. It really captures what sports are all about -- the passion, the endless hours of practice, the small-town glory. And sometimes the athletes get to showcase their hard work in front of thousands of people or just a few dozen, mostly parents and peers. The effort is all the same.
This year, for the first time, I covered Turlock area sports for an entire 12 months, meaning that I got the chance to watch local athletes begin something new and check up on their progress along the way. There were plenty of standout moments.
So for this column, I’m going to write about my favorite memories of 2009 — the good ones, the bad ones and the heartbreaking ones.
The first memory that comes to mind is the CIF State Wrestling Championships in Bakersfield, where a handful of wrestlers from Turlock High and Pitman High competed for the sport’s biggest prize: a state championship. California knows how to hold such an event, having wrestlers from all divisions fight for the chance to be the very best in his weight division, as opposed to breaking it down by divisions like they do in other states.
Turlock’s Fabian Garcia, a sophomore at the time, went the furthest last season for local wrestlers, as he finished fourth in the 119-pound weight class. In the end, he was disappointed, but he had a memorable run — almost winning his semifinal match, one step from reaching the finals. But the great thing is that his run isn’t over. He has two more seasons to become a state champion.
Another memorable moment happened much closer to home. In fact, it was in Turlock and at Joe Debely Stadium in October. It was the sixth annual Harvest Bowl between Turlock and Pitman. There was quite a storyline, as the Pride were looking to reclaim the Harvest Bowl trophy after losing it for the first time last season to cross-town rival Turlock.
And the Pride got it back.
It was mostly thanks to the unstoppable running game of Markus Sanders, Dominick Walker and Nathan Romo. They put together plenty of touchdowns, and the Pride celebrated the win by kissing the Harvest Bowl trophy. But the rivalry will be another good one next season, as the Bulldogs look to move on from their winless season and the Pride will once again be a strong squad.
And now, it’s time to discuss that standout school outside of Turlock — Hilmar High. The Yellowjackets put on another incredible run in various sports this year, including baseball, girls soccer and boys soccer. The baseball team probably had the most impressive run, having a Cinderella-like experience in the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs. This group of Yellowjackets went all the way to the title game, but lost to Central Catholic High.
And, finally, my most recent memory. I know I have mentioned this game a number of times, but it was one of the most enthralling endings to a boys basketball game I’ve ever seen in person. Yes, this was the Turlock-Modesto Christian High matchup in the championship game of the Frank Godinez Memorial Tournament earlier this month.
The game was tight from the start and the final minute was unexpected. There was a controversial call in which officials gave the Bulldogs a timeout while the Crusaders argued that the Turlock player was out of bounds when he called for a timeout. And then, the refs handed Turlock a new shot clock with 35 seconds left, meaning the Bulldogs had the chance to take the last shot.
That led to Travis Souza lofting up a baseline jumper, which led to Eric Wetzel being at the right place at the right moment and putting up a rebound shot that eventually was enough to give the Bulldogs a tournament trophy.
It was a memorable night.
And it was all part of a memorable year for me.
To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail csun@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141.

 

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