After their most upsetting loss of the season, the Turlock High football players and coaches entered this week as if nothing happened. No one was walking around practice with his head down. No one looked particularly weak, so much so that he couldn’t lift his helmet over his head. Perhaps most important, no one mentioned that gigantic elephant in the room unless someone not in a Turlock football uniform asked about it.
But it’s also safe to say that the Bulldogs’ loss to previously winless Atwater High last week has given the boys in the royal blue and gold uniforms an unexpected sort of motivation. It comes at a good time, considering what’s next: Turlock vs. Pitman in the seventh annual Harvest Bowl at the shiny, renovated Joe Debely Stadium at 7:30 p.m. on Friday in front of thousands of fans.
“After getting smacked in the mouth by Atwater last week, because we came out soft,” sophomore wide receiver/defensive back Dashawn Holcombe said, “I think this week we’ll come out harder than we ever did before.”
Yes, that surprising 17-10 loss to the Falcons on Friday still hurt. It can be heard in the players’ tone of voice. It can be recognized in the steady eyes of the players, who are determined to prove that last week’s loss was a fluke. And it can be seen in the way the Bulldogs have been practicing this week, with everyone solely focused on the surging Pride, who are coming off a big win over dangerous Merced High.
But this is a new week. It’s also been a different season for the Bulldogs, who went a disappointing 0-10 under then first-year head coach James Peterson. Anytime last season’s debacle is mentioned, he’s quick to take the blame. Anytime this season’s turnaround success is mentioned, he’s quick to say that he’s most happy for his players.
The Bulldogs own a 7-2 overall record and are destined for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs. They’ve knocked out teams like Oakdale High (a strong small-school program) and Modesto High (considered one of the best big-school teams in the Stanislaus District). And then there’s that epic home loss on Oct. 8 to Buhach Colony High, now the CCC champion.
In the latter matchup, Turlock ended the night with a 28-27 defeat after a missed extra-point.
But last week, against a winless Atwater squad, the Bulldogs just couldn’t overcome an early game deficit and suffered a surprising loss.
“You can’t go into a ball game thinking you can’t get beat,” Peterson said. “You gotta be a little scared that you can get beat.”
Again, the Bulldogs are ready to move on. And they’ve shown that they are capable of conquering any challenge, thanks to standouts like quarterback Kevin Kramer and running back Ricky Fuentes, as well as having senior leadership from the likes of linebacker Connor Pearson.
“I fully believe this team is my family,” Pearson said. “I don’t want to go into a game like that (the Harvest Bowl) with any other group of guys.”
To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.