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Bulldogs fall to Franklin in first round
Turlocks Brett Pollinger attempts to cut through his Lincoln opponents during the Bulldogs' home playoff game on Friday. - photo by CANDY PADILLA / The Journal

Turlock High is still chasing the elusive post season win after falling to Franklin High 24-41 in the first round of the SJS Division I playoffs, as they were unable to come away with a victory Friday night in their first home playoff game since 2010.

The Wildcats' size advantage was apparent from the captains' meeting and that manifested itself on the field as Franklin’s defense shut down the opening drive of the game not allowing Turlock to gain ground.

“We knew coming into this game it was going to be a fight,” said head coach James Peterson. “Our guys came out and I felt we gave it everything we had, they just made a few more plays than we had.”

Back to back holding calls on Franklin kept the Wildcats from scoring their on their opening drive when a 36-yard touchdown run was called back.

Turlock capitalized on their next opportunity and was first on the board with Dalin Tilby kicking a 21-yard field goal for the Bulldogs.

Peyton Dunseth took control of Turlock’s second drive of the game but was hit hard just 10 yards from the goal line where he left the game with 2:23 left in the first quarter.  Dunseth was out the last three games with a shoulder injury and it was questionable if he would get the start for Friday’s playoff game.

“[Dunseth] practiced half the week and looked good,” said Peterson. “ He wanted this game, he said ‘this is my time, I want to get this game for you, coach’ so we gave him the shot. But we had been working [Danny] Velasquez at the quarterback spot, and he’s done a great job for us as well. I’m proud of the way both guys have played.”

The Wildcats had a 20-yard touchdown run from the Lamar Jackson on a quarterback keeper midway through the second quarter but was called back for holding.  Franklin scored that same drive, however, on a 45-yard reverse run that set them up deep in Turlock’s territory and Jackson ran it in from 2-yards out, making the score 3-13 with 5:30 left in the second quarter.

Turlock showed flashes of great play but did not remain consistent throughout the game.

Velasquez had a 53-yard touchdown run with 2:27 left in the second quarter, but Franklin answered with back to back touchdown bombs from Jackson that covered over half the length of the field in each toss.

“The biggest thing was to keep our composure and I don’t know if we did that tonight,” said Peterson. “As a staff we’ve got to get better at that… keeping our heads straight on the sideline. But the kids played their asses off tonight.”

Mustafa Noel-Johnson recovered a Wildcat fumble for the Bulldogs that put Turlock up on their own 43-yard line.

Velasquez then threw a 36-yard pass to Donte Nickelberry that set up a fourth and goal from the 5 yard line. Velasquez stayed patient and danced around the defense to find Landon Curtis in the end zone for a short five-yard touchdown pass; and completed an eight-yard scramble for the two-point conversion after the first attempt was called back from an illegal shift, pulling the score within reach for the ‘Dogs at 24-27.

Turlock dropped a fake punt attempt deep in their own territory that would’ve given them a first down, and Franklin sealed the win with a final score of 24-41 with a five-yard touchdown run that followed.

“We’re building something here…  each year we’re getting a little bit better, each year we’re getting a little bit tougher and we’re playing better schools,” said Peterson. “That’s what we want to do here. We’re building a program here at Turlock High School and we want to keep this thing going for a long time.”

Turlock finished their season 7-3 overall and 4-1 in the Central California Conference.

Peterson added that he was proud of the way his team fought as a unit and that overall, the future looks bright for Turlock football.

“It’s been an awesome season—the highs, the lows—I wouldn’t trade any of them,” he said.