The Turlock High Bulldogs were unable to claim their 10th straight victory to advance to the semifinals of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I Football Playoffs Friday night, losing to the Elk Grove Thundering Herd 42-19.
"I thought we had a chance to win, it just got away from us," said head coach James Peterson. "Breaks didn't go our way."
The Herd began the game strong, hitting the Bulldogs with a balanced offensive attack. Though Turlock's defense was able to make plays in the first half, the game unraveled in the second as Elk Grove continued to pressure the Bulldogs on all fronts.
Things looked to be in Turlock's favor on the first drive of the game as Antonio Ruiz Suarez intercepted a Jayden Machado pass, but Ruiz Suarez fumbled the ball during his return. Elk Grove followed with a seven- play scoring drive that ended with a 24-yard touchdown pass.
"We just made too many mistakes early," said Peterson.
The Bulldogs responded quickly, however, with quarterback Danny Velasquez scoring a 15-yard touchdown after a quick, six-play scoring drive. The point after attempt was missed, putting the Bulldogs behind 7-6 with just under three minutes left in the first quarter.
The Herd pulled ahead immediately. Machado's 15-yard pass found Jonas McMillan in the end zone, making the score 14-6 at the end of the first quarter.
"Me being the ultimate competitor, I wanted to go all the way," said Velasquez.
Turlock fought back with another touchdown of their own — this time, it was Velasquez whose 15-yard pass was successfully taken into the end zone by Tyler Etharidge, pulling the Bulldogs within one point of the Herd, 14-13.
An ensuing 12-play scoring drive from Elk Grove put some distance between the two teams. Running back Damario Mclean rushed two yards into the end zone to give the Herd a 21-13 lead at the end of the third quarter.
After halftime, Elk Grove picked up right where they left off. Mclean brought the ball into the end zone once again after a 44-yard run, making the score 28-13. Turlock's chance to score on their following possession was cut short by a fumble from Etharidge.
"I think we had two crucial fumbles...that really swung the momentum in this game and I felt we could have stolen the game had we made those plays," said Peterson.
It wasn't the Bulldogs' last chance to score, though. After the Herd made the score 35-15 in the fourth quarter, Turlock answered with a score of their own. Sophomore Cameron Sherwood brought a 61-yard pass from Velasquez into the end zone to make the score 35-19, following a failed two-point conversion attempt.
The Herd was able to add one more touchdown in the game's final minutes, bringing the end score to 42-19.
"I think we beat ourselves," said Velasquez, who finished Friday night's game with 262 total yards — 147 passing, 115 rushing.
Elk Grove finished the night with 476 yards total, while Turlock finished with a total 340.
The 2016 season was a successful one for the Bulldogs, who became champions of the Central California Conference for the first time since 2003 and went undefeated in league play. Despite the playoff loss, Peterson is proud of his team.
"This is one of the best football teams to come out of Turlock, California in a long time."