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Bulldogs clinch CCAL after edging out Pride
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Turlock High’s Sean Silva (left) celebrates with his teammates after scoring the second goal in the 70th minute of Wednesday’s regular season finale against Pitman High that secured the CCAL title, 2-1 (EDDIE RUIZ/The Journal).

The 2019-2020 Central California Athletic League champions for boys soccer is Turlock High after they toppled Pitman High, which played a man down for 30 minutes, on Wednesday night from Joe Debely Stadium in a 2-1 win that nearly ended in a draw. 

“Big game, and we came in ready, but I was more worried about my team than the opponent. I just wanted to make sure we were healthy and from the previous game it was a battle,” said Pitman head coach Memo Ramirez. “They got the best of us, and I am happy for them, because we belong to the town of Turlock, we both do, yeah you want to win, but you have to know when the better team comes out on top and that was the case in this game.” 

“I think you could tell for a little while that it was going to come down at the end in this game. Pitman is a great team, so we knew it was going to be tough,” said THS head coach Doug Sperry. “I thought we were a bit lucky the first time around to be honest.” 

When both faced off on Jan. 22, it was a tie game that ended 2-2, but in that game, Pitman controlled possession and created the most opportunities. 

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Turlock High’s Eduardo Garcia (23) gets ready to clear the ball away during the first half of Wednesday’s 2-1 win over Pitman High in the final game of the regular season that was also for the CCAL title (EDDIE RUIZ/The Journal).

Wednesday’s meeting between the teams lived up to the rivalry hype, after the wild game saw major momentum swings, multiple yellow cards, a red card, multiple penalty kicks and various penalties. 

Coming into the game, both teams dominated league play and were undefeated in the CCAL.

In the opening 20 minutes, the game was controlled by Pitman and they created multiple chances, but nothing fell in the back of the net. 

Pitman continued to control possession but Turlock goalkeeper Losef Huitron blocked any attempt nearby. 

“The first 20 minutes of this game, we didn’t look good at all, we came out slow, I didn’t know what was going on. I don’t know if we were nervous, but we were just playing defense,” said Sperry. “Just off the ball so much and they controlled the game for the first 20 minutes, then we got some momentum going and our guys played with a lot more energy.” 

This led to a penalty kick that was drawn by Turlock inside the penalty box with seconds remaining in the first half. 

Luke Redman of Turlock took the PK, but his shot sailed just over past the top post and out, ending a dramatic first half, scoreless at 0-0. 

The second half started as the roles were switched from the start as Turlock continued to press and control possession.

So much so, that Sean Silva of Turlock scored the first of his two goals about four minutes into the second half as he scored after the goalkeeper over pursued the loose ball and Silva took to the opposite end and tapped it in to take a 1-0 lead.  

With about 29 minutes remaining in the game, the Pride were called for a red card and Adrian Diaz was sent out, while Pitman was forced to play a man down for the remainder of the game. 

“It is hard to play down a player, especially at the time it happened,” said Ramirez. “But we just had to adjust to the game and we tried… we really tried to come back, but there are things that you cannot do about, just depends.”

Then four minutes later, Pitman managed to draw a penalty kick of their own and tie the game at 1-1 after Alexis Benites Miranda made the point. 

Despite being down a man, Pitman did all they could, essentially fending off Turlock for as long as they could while sprinting their way to the opposite end to counter, but usually Eduardo Garcia was there to clear any chance. 

Turlock picked up the pace in the final 17 minutes and they were going for it all, creating over half a dozen chances, until finally at the 70th minute, Silva struck the go-ahead goal after striking the back of the net off a great through pass from about eight yards out to make it 2-1. 

“Sean (SIlva) played awesome, he works really hard and couldn’t have happened to a better guy,” said Sperry. “We were talking about getting up on our press, which we struggled with the first time playing so defensively, but it took us a little while to get things going. Then all of a sudden all the momentum swung our way.”

Turlock closes out the regular season ranked No. 56 in the state, while they also have won the last seven games and go to 18-3-2 overall and 9-0-1 in the CCAL. 

Pitman goes to 12-7-1 overall and 8-1-1 in league play, while their only two CCAL losses dating back to last year are against Turlock High.  

Both teams now advance to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs next week with an opponent and time yet to be determined. For the latest information on the playoff brackets, visit