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Down and out
Bulldogs stumble in playoff opener against Lodi
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Turlock High running back Ricky Fuentes (4) tries to escape from Lodi High, which topped the Bulldogs in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoff opener on Friday night.
As the ball went skyward, all the Turlock High football team could do was watch, almost helplessly.Once the ball came down, it was over. It was the Bulldogs’ fifth interception of the night, this time coming from senior Ricky Fuentes on a halfback pass. If the ball landed in the hands of a Turlock receiver, it wouldn’t have mattered much.The play signified the type of night the Bulldogs had — the equivalent of getting kicked while being down.Despite having more than 400 yards of offense, No. 5 Turlock stumbled in key moments and lost 24-7 to No. 12 Lodi High in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs at Joe Debely Stadium on Friday night. It was a sad ending for a Bulldogs team that went 8-3 overall after a 0-10 disappointment in 2009 and making the postseason for the first time in seven years.“Seeing the looks on their faces,” coach James Peterson said about his players’ postgame reaction, as he fought back tears on a cold evening, “I knew they were never going to forget this season.”It was also a cold night for dual-threat quarterback Kevin Kramer, who threw 234 yards on a 16-for-28 night and ran for 118 yards and an 18-yard touchdown. But his last game in a Turlock uniform also ended with four interceptions, including three of them coming in a stretch of four passes in the second half.Kramer’s third pick, which bounced off sophomore Brandon Esquivel’s hands, led to Lodi’s final score. After the crowd of a few hundred cleared the stands of the renovated stadium, Kramer shouldered the blame on himself, saying, “I let the team down.”“I’m not an emotional guy, but it’ll hit me,” he added. “It’s tough to go out like this. Lodi played a great game, and we just didn’t come out.”On this night, the Flames (8-3 overall) showcased an abundance of offensive weapons, with the most dangerous one being Stanford-bound running back Jordan Perkins. Though he finished the night with just one touchdown, he set the turf field on fire with 178 yards, with 121 of them coming in the final two quarters.Perkins’ 65-yard score at the end of the third quarter gave the Flames a 17-7 advantage, enough for them to start thinking upset.The Lodi specials team also caused much of the damage. After a 27-yard field goal by Alexander Faszer to start off the game, punt returner Collin Rhodes initially stumbled on his way to scooping the ball up and racing 75 yards for a 10-0 Lodi lead with 7 minutes, 7 seconds left in the first half.Kramer then engineered a 6-play drive that was highlighted by a 55-yard toss to Esquivel and the quarterback’s 18-yard march to cut the deficit to 10-7. Esquivel finished the night with three catches for 86 yards, while fellow receiver Everado Olide had a big night with six receptions for 73 yards. But one other throwing option was missing: Junior tight end Tyler Cook closed his season after breaking his leg.And Fuentes was playing hurt all night because of an abdominal strain. He was only cleared to play that day and said that he couldn’t be his shifty self against Lodi.“I’m not down about the loss,” Coach Peterson said. “I wish we could have minimized the mistakes tonight. As far as our team play, I think we could have won the game. But that’s how it goes. That’s football.”To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.