Barn burner, slobber knocker or nail biter. All three could be used to describe Turlock High’s 48-47 victory over Buhach Colony High at Joe Debely Stadium on Friday night.
After entering halftime knotted at 21 points apiece and trading leads multiple times through the game’s four quarters, the second Central California Conference contest of the season was decided on the final play of the game. Having scored as the clock expired, the Thunder decided to go for the two-point conversion and the win—a gamble that failed to pay off.
“We just played good 'D' and stepped up. We got after the quarterback, we didn’t get to him, and then he threw the ball fast and tried to hit his guy on the out, but we were right on it from the outside linebacker position. Zach Moore ended up being the hero on that,” Turlock head coach James Peterson said of the final play of the game. “We finished strong and got the victory.”
While the Bulldogs finished strong, their beginning to the game was anything but as they muffed the opening kickoff and relinquished possession to Buhach on the lost fumble. Fortunately for Turlock, its defense held strong and allowed its offense to jump onto the board first on a three-yard touchdown run from Brandon Booz. Turlock’s special teams unit again faltered, however, as the PAT was missed.
Buhach Colony took advantage of the miscue and took a one-point lead after a 54-yard touchdown dash from Justin Stefani, but Turlock managed to even the score by the end of the first quarter after a 26-yard touchdown run from Bubba Moreno and a successful two-point conversion.
Andy Jennings extended Turlock’s lead with a one-yard touchdown plunge, but the Thunder refused to concede. Instead, they scored back-to-back touchdowns with the help of Aundre Sherman, the first via a 95-yard kickoff return and the second by way of a ten-yard run to make it 21-21 at the half.
Booze again found pay dirt on Turlock’s first possession of the second half with a touchdown run from 11 yards out, but the lead was temporary as the Thunder again scored back-to-back touchdowns as quarterback Nate Duran connected with Darius Mack from 28 yards out and Stefanie rumbled his way into the end zone from 10 yards out.
Turlock then put its foot on the accelerator with three consecutive touchdowns to seemingly clinch the victory. Moreno and Bear Padilla hooked up on two consecutive touchdown passes—14 yards and 39 yards, respectively—while Jennings scored his second touchdown of the night on a 44-yard touchdown run.
Victory was far from secured, however, as the Thunder’s quarterback rallied the team with a two-yard touchdown plunge and a six yard touchdown pass to Sherman. Duran was ultimately unable to complete the comeback as Moore ensured a 2-0 start to CCC play for Turlock and an 0-2 start for Buhach Colony.
“They’re happy we got the win. Obviously we wanted it to be a lot cleaner, but hey, when you can beat Buhach to go 2-0 in league it’s a great thing,” Peterson said. “I would have never guessed that Buhach would be 0-2. They’re so talented.”
Turlock is now tied for first in the CCC alongside defending champs Merced High. The Bulldogs face their next challenge at home against Atwater High next Friday before taking on the Bears head on the following week.
“Our game plan is just to solidify all phases of the game and minimize mistakes and penalties,” Peterson said. “Offense, defense and special teams; we’ve got to get the guys on the same page and get a good team victory next week against Atwater.”