It was a game played under Thursday night lights rather than Friday for the Turlock High Bulldogs this week, but nothing changed for the football team as they captured their ninth straight victory and a first-round playoff win with a 42-7 defeat of the Lincoln High Trojans.
It was the fifth time that the Bulldogs and Trojans have met in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs, and previously, Turlock was 0-4 against Lincoln. To finally notch a win against the team was a good feeling, said Bulldogs head coach James Peterson, and it was his first playoff victory since taking the helm of the team in 2009.
“It’s outstanding,” he said. “We’ve just been trying so hard to get here. It’s where we’ve been wanting to be, so I’m just proud of the way the guys handled themselves all week.”
Turlock came onto the field ready to win, scoring 21 unanswered points in the game’s first quarter. Quarterback Danny Velasquez picked up right where he left off at last week’s Harvest Bowl, scoring the game’s first touchdown by way of a 23-yard run just four minutes in. Running back Mark Flores followed with a rushing touchdown of his own — a 66-yard dash down the sideline to make the score 14-0 with five minutes left in the first quarter.
With 42 seconds left in the quarter, the Bulldogs tacked on another touchdown thanks to a six-yard run from running back Dustin Grein, giving Turlock an early 21-0 lead.
The Bulldogs defense kept the Trojans out of the end zone for a majority of the game, and had three interceptions on the night from Garrett Thompson, Gabriel Melton and Alex Ceja.
“That defense is a wild bunch, the wild boys, and they really turned it on tonight,” said Peterson. “I thought we really came out tonight and handled the pass which has been our kryptonite all year.”
Turlock’s offensive onslaught continued into the second quarter, with Flores completing a 22-yard touchdown run for his second of the night, making the score 28-0 with just under 10 minutes left in the half. Flores finished the game with 117 rushing yards.
The Trojans’ lone touchdown of the game came on their ensuing possession, when quarterback Aaron Thomas connected with wide receiver Izaiah Celestine on a 69-yard scoring pass to make the score 28-7 with eight minutes left in the second quarter. Lincoln threatened to score again later in the half, making their way to the Bulldogs’ three yard line. Turlock executed an impressive defensive stand, taking the Trojans from first and goal to fourth and goal, ultimately forcing the turnover on downs.
To begin the second half’s scoring, Velasquez competed a 22-yard pass to Mustafa Noel-Johnson to push the Bulldogs ahead, 35-7. The Trojans’ following drive down the field was cut short by a pick-six from Thompson with 2:30 left in the third quarter, making the score 42-7. With a running clock in the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs walked away from the game with the victory.
“The biggest thing I’m excited about is that our team is nine games into this, and it feels like it flew by,” said Peterson of the Bulldogs’ winning streak. “Hopefully we can get another victory next week and keep this thing rolling, because we’re having a lot of fun playing together right now.”
With Thursday’s win, the Bulldogs advance to the next round of playoffs and will face Elk Grove High School in Elk Grove next Friday.
“I would love to see us go all the way,” said Peterson. “That’s been the goal since I got here – win a section championship.”