The Turlock High varsity football team capped off their undefeated season on Friday night with a blowout Harvest Bowl victory over Pitman High, 49-7.
It was the seventh-straight Harvest Bowl victory for the Bulldogs, who now lead the series for the first time 9-8. It was also the fifth-straight season Turlock has gone undefeated in league play and the win solidified their third-straight Central California Athletic League championship since the league merger in 2018.
The Bulldogs celebrated their 100th season this year, and head coach James Peterson said the program’s success since he took over in 2009 is due to community support and a comradery that brings players and coaches back year after year.
“The evolution of the program…when I came, it wasn’t one. We weren’t communicating well and we weren’t collaborating well, and all that coming together is really what’s leading this charge you see lately,” Peterson said. “…Almost a decade’s worth of wins to get back to this spot where we can lead the series. It’s unreal. I never thought we could do it when I first started because it was so hard, but everybody rallied.”
The Pride finished the season 2-3 following their loss to Turlock, and head coach Lance Weckerle was proud of the effort his team put forth during the COVID-shortened season.
“Every week this team has incredible heart. We never quit,” Weckerle said. “We made a couple of mistakes against a really good team and it’s hard to overcome those types of mistakes.”
Despite sacking Bulldog quarterback Beau Green six times, the Pride suffered five turnovers on the night, four fumbles and an interception, and went into halftime trailing 21-0 after two touchdowns from Bulldog running back Josiah Gonzales — 24 yards and 1 yard, respectively — in the game’s first three minutes and another 18-yard touchdown by running back Cade Gilbert.
Gonzales went on to score again in the third quarter on a 27-yard run following a Pride fumble, and JT Foreman did the same just two possessions later following another fumble via a 1-yard rush. Gonzales finished the night with 102 rushing yards on 14 carries with 3 touchdowns.
“The main goal was just to put it down Pitman’s throats,” Gonzales said. “We love playing Pitman and we love having a great Harvest Bowl so we just put our heads down and did what we do best.”
The Bulldogs tacked on two more touchdowns to make it 49-0, first with a 93-yard double touchdown pass from Green to receiver Logan Hart, who then tossed the ball downfield to his fellow receiver Logan Smith.
The Pride did score in the final few minutes of the game thanks to a 73-yard dash from running back Joey Stout, but the Bulldogs’ lead proved to be insurmountable.
“We’re just thankful to have the opportunity to come out and compete and have a season, and to try and heal and get back to some sort of normalcy,” Weckerle said.
For Peterson, the goal is to continue building upon a program that has dominated the league in recent years.
“Over half [the team] is juniors and sophomores. We always have a good balance year after year, but the seniors are going to graduate and you’ve got to be able to have those young players around them so they can pass things down,” he said. “As a coach, you don’t have time to teach them all these things but if they can take it from the players above them, that’s next level.”