The bleachers at Joe Debely Stadium in Turlock were filled on Friday night for Turlock High’s first-round playoff matchup against Edison High. The winner between the No. 7 ranked Bulldogs and the No. 10 ranked Vikings would secure themselves a date with No. 2 ranked St. Mary’s in the quarterfinal round of the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I bracket. Luckily for the hometown crowd, the Bulldogs put on a performance to remember with a 35-0 victory.
It was domination by Turlock from the very beginning. Receiving the ball on the opening kickoff, the Bulldogs put together a near-flawless 15-play drive that was capped off with an 18-yard touchdown catch by Jeremiah Bertalotto from quarterback Cole Gilbert. The score was set up by a stellar one-handed grab for 25 yards by tight end Joshua Weatherbee.
On the ensuing Edison drive, the Bulldog defense forced the Vikings 20 yards back before forcing a punt on 4th and 30. After getting the ball back, the game then turned into the J.T. Foreman II show. Foreman rushed the ball four out of seven plays and capped off the drive with a four-yard touchdown rush, increasing the Turlock lead to 14-0.
Facing the two-score deficit, the Vikings were motivated to put points on the board. Eight plays into their second drive of the game and deep into Bulldog territory, it seemed likely that they would score, but Turlock’s Andrew Johnson quickly cut off a pass by Edison quarterback Berell Staples to secure an interception. On the first play of the ensuing Turlock drive, Johnson made his presence felt again, this time by hauling in another one-handed grab for 26 yards down the home sideline. The big play then set up 19-yard touchdown rush from Foreman, which made it a 21-0 game.
After another defensive stop by the Bulldogs, the offense picked up right where they left off, milking minutes off the clock in a 10-play drive that ended in Foreman’s third touchdown of the game, making it 28-0.
“J.T. is a tough, tough kid,” said Turlock head coach James Peterson. “Those kids [from Edison] came to play tonight because he took some licks. He was getting pounded and he just kept giving every play.”
Though Foreman took his share of punishment in the trenches, he gave praise to his offensive line for getting him just enough space to his impact on the game.
“I want to say thank to my lineman for blocking for me because those three touchdowns mean a lot to me, so I appreciate them,” he said.
Again, the Vikings tried to rally their offense on the next drive, but just like last time, it was Johnson who came up big as he traced down running back Johnel Pettis nearly 70 yards down the field to force and recover a fumble. After a Bulldog punt, Johnson came through again as he picked off a pass by Staples right before halftime to keep it 28-0 heading into the locker rooms.
“Andrew Johnson is next level,” said Peterson. “When he locks in, it’s going to be a great night.”
And the great night for Johnson didn’t end there.
The Vikings opened the third quarter with a three-and-out, but a booming punt from Edison that placed the Bulldogs on their own one-yard line once again gave them a bit of hope. But as was the case in the first half, their hopes were quickly crushed at the hands of the Bulldog offense.
After nine plays brought the ball to Edison territory, Peterson and his coaching staff played some trickery on the Vikings defense. On 2nd and 10 from the 46, Gilbert fired a quick backwards pass to Johnson, who then looked up field to find Peter Mello wide open for a touchdown, sending the Turlock sideline into a frenzy.
In the end, Johnson had two interceptions, one forced fumble, a fumble recovery, a touchdown pass and 26 yards receiving. While it may seem like a hard decision, Johnson wasted no time in picking his favorite play of the game.
“My favorite play was the fumble because every Thursday practice, we always do these strip drills and nobody’s ever done it in a game before, so might as well just try it and it worked out perfect. As soon as I got it, I went up to [Peterson] and said, ‘It worked,’” Johnson said with a bright smile.
With the undefeated Rams of St. Mary’s waiting for Turlock next week, the Bulldogs know that the upcoming week of film and practice is crucial if they want to keep their season alive.
“We need to stick with the gameplan,” said Gilbert. “We’re going to get right into film session next week and come into practice hot. We’re going to come into the game, compete our asses off and play as hard as we can.”
Peterson shared similar sentiments.
“We just gotta come in and play sound football and minimize the mistakes,” he said. “We can’t allow ourselves to beat ourselves, so we need to come in, execute, play another good defensive battle and we should have a good game.”
SJS Division I Playoffs: Turlock vs Edison | The Blitz Season 10The Blitz has coverage from Turlock High's shutout win against Edison High in the first round of the SJS Division I Playoffs that took place on November 4, 2022. Sponsored By: Realtor Michael Rocha