The Central California Conference title was on the line Wednesday night when Turlock and Pitman High varsity boys’ soccer squared off from CSU Stanislaus’ Warrior Stadium.
In both their final seasons competing in the CCC, they managed to finish as the top two teams, with the Bulldogs of Turlock earning the crown after a 3-1 win.
“Credit to Pitman, they won their game before this one and gave us a great game,” said Turlock head coach Doug Sperry. “It’s awesome, so cool for the players and it’s something they will remember forever, and when you’re around them every day you begin to realize what amazing people they are and how badly you want it for them. I couldn’t be happier for the players.”
Turlock ends their final year in the CCC with a record of 7-2-3.
“It’s an exciting way to do it. It’s been a while since we beat Pitman and last year we had it wrapped up a game early so we wanted to prevent injuries and yellow cards and they beat us and every year we played at Stan we never beat ‘em,” said Sperry. “First time we were able to do all those things.”
The Pride, who placed second in their final season in the CCC, finished with a record of 5-2-5.
“It’s all good, the title stayed in the town of Turlock. Hard fought game like we expected, two pretty well evenly matched teams,” said Pitman head coach Brian Hofsteen. “They played great today, got a little thrown off with the penalty kick that got called back and threw us off a little bit. They came back and had some momentum, but they played a really good game today… they deserve that championship.”
The last time Turlock boys soccer defeated Pitman was on Oct. 30, 2013 when they won 3-2.
Since then and prior to Wednesday’s result, Pitman had edged out Turlock in the past nine games with a record of 7-0-2. It also included six clean sheets.
It seemed like a long time coming for the ‘Dogs and they set the pace early on.
Jesus Estrada of Turlock found the back of the net for the first goal of the game just two minutes into play and that sparked the team’s consistency that stayed with them throughout the game.
Estrada notched his second goal off a penalty kick attempt at the 16-minute mark and the ‘Dogs took a 2-0 lead heading into halftime.
It took five minutes into the second half for Pitman to break the clean sheet when Felipe Lopez struck the back of the net at the 45th minute to cut the lead to 2-1.
Then off a set piece cross from about 28 yards out, Turlock senior Axel Altamirano completed the perfect play after he headed in the third goal from about 12 yards away to finish the game at 3-1.
“Feels great and I think we went in more confident than we had any other year and could have wrapped it up with a number of other games,” said Sperry. “However, we lost last week to some teams we shouldn’t have and that gave a lot of teams a way to get right back in it.”
Turlock still managed to win three of their last four games to end the regular season, while Pitman won three of their last five.
“We had a problem with players cramping,” said Hofsteen. “So, I am not sure why that was exactly, but the pace of the game was difficult to manage because we pulled some of our key players and I think they played smart. They just needed to keep the focus, but having this experience on senior night like they did, we just have to move on, we will be ready.”
Both Turlock and Pitman advance to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs but their opponents and times are yet to be determined.
“I think last year we proved we could play with anybody,” said Sperry about last year’s D-I semifinal run. “I think if we step on the field there is nobody I don’t think we can contend with or compete, which is a good feeling to have rolling into this part of the season. I think our guys are confident. When we’re on I think we are as good as anybody. If we can roll off this and continue to play well I think we can give anybody a good run.”