Turlock football head coach James Peterson told his star player, “It’s your time… take over.”
Bulldog quarterback Danny Velasquez did just that, leading Turlock to their first Central California Conference title since 2003 and their third consecutive Harvest Bowl victory after beating Pitman, 31-14, Friday night from Joe Debely.
“It’s so amazing… all I have to say especially after two years of losing to Merced,” said Velasquez who is 3-0 against Pitman. “It feels great, get that monkey off my back, I am just so proud of my team, we are CCC champs.”
“Wins are not easy to come by and I realized early on that it takes time to get those championships, you can’t get it back,” said Peterson. “But it feels like years and years of work that finally came together tonight, so proud of my football team.”
Pitman falls for the first time this year after starting off their historic season at 9-0 for the first time in program history.
“Gotta give Turlock credit, they are pretty darn good up front but problem is we got too far behind and it wasn’t going to be our game and it forced the dynamic to change and it's discouraging,” said Pitman head coach Tom Tyler.
It was Pitman that scored first after a Turlock fumbled punt in their opening drive to begin the game.
The Pride’s Jacob Perez busted loose for a nine-yard run into the end zone on a three-play drive and put Pitman up 7-0 with 9:02 on the clock.
Turlock responded with 28 unanswered points of their own with the help of Velasquez and defensive standout Mustafa Noel-Johnson after connecting on a 10-yard touchdown to tie it at 7-7 with 6:11 left in the first.
The Bulldogs followed with three consecutive touchdowns after Velasquez scored on a two-yard and a one-yard run followed by a Mark Flores 27-yard run.
Just before the half ended, the Bulldogs took a 28-7 lead, giving Pitman their largest deficit of the year.
“They were prepared tonight, and we played better,” said Tyler. “I just think we didn’t play very well, we didn’t block very well either but we blocked better in the second half. We did a good job, and I couldn’t tell you why it happened but sometimes it just works that way.”
Pitman committed a total of three turnovers while Turlock had just one for the game.
Velasquez finished with 161 total yards of offense, including 49 pass and 112 rushing yards, two rushing touchdowns and an interception. Noel-Johnson added two fumble recoveries and a sack.
“Everyone was super hyped, everybody was pumped up tonight, and we went in the way we wanted to —having all 11 fly at the ball,” said Noel-Johnson. “It feels extremely great to be part of the team who started the streak and it's mind blowing, I am out of words… but it is great.”
Turlock has now bested Pitman for the third consecutive year. Pitman still leads the Harvest Bowls at 8-5.
Turlock tallied 247 yards of total offense. Pitman added 208 for the game.
“They are a good football team and we knew going in they were a good football team so we need to draw it up on the chalk board and learn from our mistakes and go from there,” said Pitman’s JT Mercer.
Turlock and Pitman advance into the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs next week with the opponent and time yet to be determined.