Past Harvest Bowl Scores
Series record: Pitman 6-2
2004: Pitman 21, Turlock 18
2005: Pitman 35, Turlock 34
2006: Pitman 21, Turlock 0
2007: Pitman 20, Turlock 19
2008: Turlock 7, Pitman 0
2009: Pitman 40, Turlock 6
2010: Turlock 21, Pitman 16
2011: Pitman 16, Turlock 13
AJ Derr is arguably the best athlete at Pitman High. If there was any doubt if he was or not, he changed that perception Friday night in one of the biggest games of the season — the 8th Harvest Bowl.
Best known as the school's quarterback, Derr did most of his damage with his foot. He made three field goals, including a career-best 41-yarder, to help lift the Pride to a thrilling 16-13 victory in the Central California Conference season finale in front of 5,000 fans at Debely Stadium. Pitman regained possession of the Harvest Bowl trophy after Turlock won it last season.
It also helped the Pride (9-1, 4-1 CCC) secure a first-round home opener when the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs begin on Nov. 11. Pitman finished second in the CCC, behind Buhach Colony, which edged Atwater 28-21on Friday night.
This year’s Harvest Bowl was a hard-fought one from the beginning, as it ended in no turnovers from either side.
The Bulldogs (7-3, 3-2 CCC) had a chance to tie it with 3 seconds left in the game, but a 27-yard field goal attempt sailed to the left — igniting a premature Pitman celebration. The Pride were penalized, but it didn’t matter.
Pitman coach Brandon Harris wasn’t surprised the game ended so dramatically.
“These games are always tight,” he said, “and quite often field goals are what end these games.”
Derr nailed his first field goal, a 41-yarder, early in the game to give the Pride an early 3-0 lead.
The Bulldogs made it 7-3 after a 9-play, 91-yard drive that was highlighted by a 25-yard connection from Brandon Esquivel to Da'Shawn Holcombe. The drive was capped by Esquivel’s 1-yard march to the end zone.
After a 51-yard kick return by Tyler Arnsberg, Derr found Zach Olsen on a 34-yard pass that set up Brent Nelle's 13-yard score to take back the lead, 10-7, with 5 minutes, 26 seconds left in the first half.
But Turlock wasn't finished, as Esquivel connected with Holcombe again, this time for 34 yards, before he found Bryce Simmons for an 8-yard TD pass with a little over a minute left in the first half.
The Bulldogs took a 13-10 halftime lead after Pitman's Dakota Selfridge blocked the extra-point attempt.
At 1:50 mark in the third quarter, Derr, whose dad was a college kicker, tied it up at 13-13 with a 35-yard field goal. Of course, he knocked in another one. His 25-yard field goal with 9 minutes left in the fourth quarter gave the Pride their final score of 16-13.
“I honestly wasn’t expecting to kick field goals,” said Derr, who finished with 41 rushing yards and completed 5 of 11 passes for 78 yards, “because our offense has been doing so well the past couple weeks. I have to give it up to the O-line.”
Nelle, who had Pitman’s lone touchdown, finished with 14 rushes for 107 yards and Olsen caught three passes for 58 yards.
The Bulldogs, who were looking to better their playoff position but will likely open on the road, also had standouts. Esquivel — in his second week as the starting quarterback after Sean Downs went down with a season-ending injury — completed 7 of 13 passes for 102 yards and one TD. Bryce Simmons and Erick Parsons bullied their way through the Pitman defense for 84 and 40 yards, respectively.
In the end, it was Pitman’s night — for the sixth time.
“It was hard-fought,” said Harris, Pitman’s coach, “just like they always are.”
To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.