Turlock High entered the 11th annual Harvest Bowl on Friday night with a chip on its shoulder and a playoff spot on the line. The Bulldogs had missed their shot at the Central California Conference championship by a mere three points a week prior, and with a 5-4 record, they desperately needed to defeat their rival, Pitman High, to keep their season alive.
To accomplish their goal the Bulldogs turned to quarterback Bubba Moreno who lit up the opposition through the air and on the ground in what turned out to be Turlock’s most dominating performance against its rival to date. For only the third time in Harvest Bowl history Turlock emerged victorious over Pitman, 41-10.
“Our guys came out tonight, we played a tough, tough team. I think the breaks early on went in our favor and that was enough for us to steal momentum of the game, and once we grasp it it’s like we never let go of momentum,” Turlock head coach James Peterson said. “Hats off to our guys. We finally put four quarters together against a tough opponent. I’m just proud of my guys right now.”
Turlock scored early and often as it found the end zone on all four of its first half possessions. Pitman found success on its first two drives as well, splitting the uprights with a 20-yard field goal from Donovan Bravo and scoring their lone touchdown of the night on a four-yard pass from Matt Carrigg to Bravo. Unfortunately for the Pride, a staunch Turlock defense and a handful of injuries shut down their offensive attack for the remainder of the game.
“We just got in a bad way. Got steamrolled, had a few injuries and we couldn’t stop the flow. We couldn’t get off the field on third down, mainly,” Pitman head coach Tom Tyler said. “We were in pretty decent shape until they got that last score before the half. Then we had two of our guys go down.”
While Pitman struggled with its personnel, Turlock found a way to spread the ball around as all six of its touchdowns were scored by different players.
The Bulldogs’ first score came by way of a 56-yard touchdown pass from Moreno to Jeffery Hines on the fifth play of the game. Moreno then found pay dirt with his legs from 10 yards out before throwing another touchdown pass to Danny Velasquez from 15 yards out. Not content with just two touchdown passes in the first half, however, Moreno added a third when he hooked up with Allen Padilla from eight yards out to make it 28-10 at the half.
“We came out, we executed, and we got what we wanted. We took it,” Moreno said. “Hell of a job from the receivers. They saw me rolling out, every time I was rolling out they were finding me.”
With multiple players on the sidelines with injuries, Pitman hit the field in the second half and struggled to find its footing. The Bulldog defense orchestrated a pair of four-and-outs on Pitman’s first two possessions and held the Pride to only one possession in the fourth quarter. Pitman finished the game with 181 total yards — 44 of which were recorded in the second half.
“It just put us in a tough way,” Tyler said.
Turlock extended its lead with a two-yard touchdown plunge from Andy Jennings and a one-yard touchdown plunge from Brandon Booze in the third quarter.
“I was trying to explain to my guys before this game, because I was feeling like our morale was a little bit down, I wanted to reiterate to them how close of a team they were to being undefeated,” Peterson said.
“In past game we made a lot of mistakes. We cleared them up and it showed,” Moreno said. “We were not going to be denied this victory. We wanted it more and it showed.”
Moreno completed 20 of his 25 passes for 304 yards and three touchdowns and carried the ball 10 times for 86 yards and a touchdown, bringing his total stats for the game to 390 yards and four touchdowns. Hines finished with two catches for 115 yards and a touchdown, Padilla finished with four catches for 43 yards and a touchdown and Velasquez brought in six catches for 81 yards and a touchdown.
Turlock finished with 565 total yards.
“It seemed like every time we throw they brought heat, and he just did a great job keeping a level head, not forcing the ball, throwing the ball out of bounds, kill the clock when we needed to, converting on third down. I felt like this was probably his best game all season,” Peterson said of his quarterback.
Bravo finished the game as Pitman’s top producer with five catches for 58 yards and a touchdown.
“We had a little trouble getting it to him in the second half,” Tyler said of Bravo. “He did a good job and it would have been nice to get him the ball a little more in the second half.”
With the win, Turlock will enter the CIF Division I Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs as the second seed from the CCC. Pitman, with an overall record of 7-2, should also earn a playoff berth though it will have to wait for the release of the tournament bracket to be sure.