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Turlock, Pitman, Hilmar, Denair football ready for playoff action

POSTED November 9, 2010 11:31 p.m.

It wasn’t until two weeks into the 2010 season that Turlock High football coach James Peterson realized that he had something special in his team. Sure, the Bulldogs won their first game in two years against Downey High in the season opener a week earlier, but it wasn’t until the scoreboard at Joe Debely Stadium displayed this that he knew:

Turlock 39, Oakdale 14.

“After the Oakdale win, I knew we turned the corner,” Peterson said about beating a well-respected small-school program and known giant-killer. “At that one point there, I said, ‘Hey, we really got something here.”

Nine weeks later, the Bulldogs are in the postseason — though they had secured a berth long before. But now, things are getting serious for the four area teams that have advanced this far.

Playoffs begin Friday night.

No. 5 Turlock (8-2 overall) garnered the highest seeding of all, as the Bulldogs will be the lone area team to host a postseason game. Turlock will welcome No. 12 Lodi High (7-3) and its Stanford-bound running back Jordan Perkins to Debely Stadium in a first-round game of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs.

Denair, Hilmar and Pitman will play the role of road warriors.

In the other Division I game, No. 11 Pitman (7-3) will face No. 6 Granite Bay (7-3) for the fifth time in the Pride’s short history, with the Grizzlies owning a 4-0 series advantage. The last time the two squads met was in 2008, and Granite Bay won 29-13.

No. 6 Hilmar (6-4) goes up against No. 3 Argonaut (8-2) in the Division IV-B playoff bracket. The Yellowjackets — whose starting quarterback Andrew Olson returns Friday from suffering a broken arm earlier in the season — have won three of the last four meetings between the two schools.

And finally, No. 6 Denair (6-4), which finished in a three-way tie for second place in the Southern League, will travel to face No. 3 Bradshaw Christian (9-1) in Sacramento for a first-round matchup in the Division VI playoffs. Bradshaw Christian is the defending Section winner.

Arguably, Turlock has the most unique storyline considering what the program has gone through in the past few years. This is the first time the Bulldogs are making the playoffs since 2003, and they’re also coming off a historically awful 0-10 season in 2009.

“I remember when I was a kid, it seemed like every year Turlock was in the playoffs,” said Coach Peterson, a Turlock High alum. “You know, it was something that always happened. Now, it’s getting further and further apart.

“I’d like to get us back to that, where we’re doing that every year.”

By comparison, Pitman is in the playoffs for the fifth time in its short history, Hilmar is in the postseason for the 22nd time and Denair is back in it for the 12th time in school history. Turlock, however, has the fortunate task of playing at home.

Pitman, Hilmar and Denair are all coming off losses in respective regular season finales.

“It’s like we never played the game,” Pitman coach Brandon Harris said about his Pride losing to crosstown rival Turlock last week. “I’m really happy about that. That game seems like it was a year ago already. I think our kids are fine. We’re ready to go. We’re very excited getting ready for the playoffs. That’s a good thing, that we have a playoff game after that game. It’s not like we’re sitting all offseason thinking about it.

“We’re just moving on.”

To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail csun@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.

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