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Turlock high schools prepare for Harvest Bowl
School spirit runs high during the Harvest Bowl. Tickets sell out to the rivalry game between Pitman and Turlock high football teams every year. - photo by Journal file photos

Turlock’s most-anticipated high school football game of the year may not be for another week, but the Pitman Pride, Turlock Bulldogs and Turlock Unified School District are already preparing for the 14th annual Harvest Bowl.


The annual crosstown matchup will take place Nov. 3, and has been a longstanding tradition in Turlock since the first Harvest Bowl game was played on Oct. 22, 2004. The game pits Turlock’s two public high schools against each other, and for years has brought the community together under the bright lights of Joe Debely Stadium.


Harvest Bowl tickets for current Turlock and Pitman students will go on sale Oct. 26 in the Activities Office at both high schools. Community tickets will go on sale Oct. 30, and will be available until they sell out.  


Prior to the 2015 Harvest Bowl, the practice of providing early ticket access to students was established in order to encourage participation from both schools. A total of 3,400 tickets will be sold for the game, which unfortunately does not meet the annual demand for tickets, said TUSD Chief Communications Coordinator Marie Russell.


Although the maximum capacity of Joe Debely Stadium is 3,737, there is a need to account for a number of other individuals who will be present due to their participation in the Harvest Bowl, such as band members, coaches, cheerleaders, players, supervision personnel and Turlock police officers. The District works closely with the Turlock Fire Department to ensure the stadium’s safety standards are met during the game, said Russell.


“We typically sell out every year,” she said. “Last year with the CCC championship on the line, we sold out earlier than in previous years.”


Some parents of both Pride and Bulldog players had no choice but to look to scalpers in hopes of purchasing Harvest Bowl tickets last year after tickets at THS sold out in hours, and were gone within a day at PHS. The usual draw of the crosstown rivalry paired with the league championship on the line made for an increased demand for tickets, and while this year’s game doesn’t have as high stakes, Russell encourages parents to purchase them as soon as they go on sale.


There have been no changes made to the Harvest Bowl ticket sales policy, she said, and TUSD does not support the practice of scalping tickets to the game.


This is the last Harvest Bowl where both Turlock and Pitman will compete against each other in the Central California Conference before becoming part of the Central California Athletic League alongside Gregori, Enochs, Modesto and Downey high schools. Though this game holds special significance, it will not stand in the way of the established Turlock rivalry.


“Since THS and PHS will continue to compete in the CCAL together, this special TUSD tradition will live on,” said Russell.


As the players go head-to-head during the game, it’s the responsibility of each school’s cheer team to not only pump up the crowd, but also to provide entertainment during half time – routines with complex choreography that both Pitman and Turlock’s cheerleaders begin practicing weeks in advance.


With most of the city’s high school community in attendance, the pressure is on, said Pitman cheer coach Angie Freitas, but that doesn’t stop both sides from sharing the special splendor of the game.


“This particular game can be seen as the biggest game of the year, but I see it as an opportunity for the town to come together to share a passion and tradition while cheering our teams to victory,” said Freitas. “The girls serve as the catalyst to help spread positivity amongst the student body by focusing on being spirited, classy, and avoiding any kind of negativity, especially with social media.”


And while Pride and Bulldog players raise the roof in celebration of touchdowns next Friday night, both high schools have partnered with a pair of the city’s philanthropies to raise funds during the game: Turlock Together and The Salvation Army.


Ten students from each high school – 20 in total – will storm into the stands at halftime, kettles in hand, to raise money for the TUSD’s Salvation Army Kettle Dash Team.


Turlock Together has joined forces with both the Turlock and Pitman Key Clubs to sell spirit ribbons during the game, raising money to provide meals to the needy this holiday season.


“The key clubs are service clubs, so it just seemed like the perfect partnership,” said Turlock Together volunteer Dona Veron, who hopes to see the collaboration become an annual tradition. “This game is a really popular event, and this organization benefits the entire city.”