The most anticipated prep football game in the Journal's coverage area lived up to the hype when Turlock and Pitman High squared off for Harvest Bowl 14 from Joe Debely on Friday night in a critical and final Central California Conference showdown.
Pitman came in needing a victory to secure a spot in the postseason and a share of the CCC title, only the Bulldogs of Turlock proved to be too much as they secured their second consecutive league title in undefeated fashion with a 39-27 win.
“I was just excited about the way we responded; we were in at halftime and it was tough and we told the guys to come out and play hard,” said Turlock head coach James Peterson. “If we are the last team to win it, at every level I believe tonight, so not only was varsity a champ, freshman and JV, what a special way to take that championship home.”
“Honestly, I didn’t expect this, since we were expecting to win but we couldn’t come away with the victory. We started off rough, but battled back and we never gave up,” said Pitman’s Tyler Stout.
The atmosphere was electric, the stands were packed and the excitement was tangible as immediately there were three punts consecutively after three scoreless drives.
Turlock attempted a field goal from 40 yards out as the first quarter winded down but the Pride’s special teams blocked it and the Pride scored on their ensuing drive that concluded with a Denzel Steckwren nine-yard score to take the lead 7-0 to start the second.
Jordan Porter of Turlock took the following kickoff return for 85-yards as the score was tied 7-7 to start the second.
Dallin Tilby of Turlock drilled a 26-yard field goal to take a 10-7 lead followed by Pitman’s AJ Reyes running for a 38-yard touchdown score to give the Pride a 14-10 lead at the half.
Turlock immediately opened up the second half with a quick three-play scoring drive that concluded with a Jonah Kosakiewicz 28-yard completion to Porter to give them a 17-14 lead with 11:28 left in the third.
It seemed to go back and forth as Treyton Fair found Reyes for a 13-yard rifle to go up 21-17 with 7:22 left in the third.
Turlock responded right away as Tyler Etharidge broke loose for a 60-yard dash that put the ‘Dogs up 25-21.
Garret Fountain of Turlock caught a 17-yard strike from Kosakiewicz as the third quarter came to a close and the ‘Dogs took a 32-21 lead heading into the fourth.
Trenton Brock of Pitman scored the final touchdown for the Pride with a four-yard run to cut the lead to 32-27 with 3:35 left in the game.
“It was a really big game. I think we were ready and we had a great game plan, everyone was prepared and it’s just we couldn’t make things happen how we intended to,” said Brock. “I feel like a big factor was penalties and turnovers, that was the biggest thing that hurt us in the game.”
Kosakiewicz erased any doubt as he scored the final TD of the game with 1:35 left after breaking loose for 37-yards to put his team up for good, 39-27.
“All week we were preparing for them, they are a very good team and we knew it would be a battle,” said Kosakiewicz. “All week we knew we had to give it our all, just hoped to walk away with the win and we played till the end.”
The 27 points was the most the Turlock defense had allowed all year in the CCC.
Both sides part ways in the CCC having finished with a winning record in league as they embark on the newly created Central California Athletic League along with Gregori, Enochs, Modesto and Downey high schools.
Pride still leads the all-time Harvest Bowl record at 8-6.
With the loss, Pitman falls to 5-5 for the year, making it the first season in program history where they don’t have a winning record by the conclusion of the regular season finale.
“Beginning of the season I wish we could have obviously done better but we battled through it and finished strong,” Brock added.
Turlock ends the regular season with an overall record of 8-2 for the second straight year and 6-0 in the CCC.
The Bulldogs also conclude CCC play with undefeated back-to-back seasons for the first time in program history.
Turlock hasn’t lost in the CCC since Oct. 30, 2015 to Merced. Turlock is also 20-2 in the CCC over the last four seasons while Pitman is 15-7 over the last four years in the CCC.
Next up is the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-I playoffs for Turlock against an opponent and time yet to be determined. Check cifsjs.org for updates on the brackets.