Two points. That was the difference between victory and defeat Friday night when Turlock High hosted rival Pitman High in the 10th annual Harvest Bowl.
Before the matchup, Pride quarterback Wyatt Clapper predicted it would be a boxing match with both teams going back and forth and “throwing blows.” He wasn’t wrong.
After entering the half with a 7-6 score in favor of Pitman, the Bulldogs (1-4 CCC, 5-5 Overall) and Pride (3-2 CCC, 7-3 Overall) used the third and fourth quarters as their championship rounds as they took turns pummeling each other on the turf of Joe Debely Stadium. Each team scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, all potential knockout shots, but by the end of regulation it was the Pride who walked away with their arms raised as they earned their eight Harvest Bowl win of the series by a score of 27-25.
“We played good enough to win and that’s what counts, especially in this game,” Pitman head coach Tom Tyler said after his first Harvest Bowl win as a head coach. “Turlock played well enough, probably, to win. It’s just one of those deals.”
Pitman relied heavily on its run game, specifically the tandem of Logan Wolfley and Drew Lewis who finished the game with 137 yards and 164 yards, respectively.
Turlock, on the other hand, found a majority of its success through the air as quarterback Sean Downs and tight end Jacob Mabie made a habit of exploiting the Pride’s secondary with Downs completing 24 of 30 passes for 242 yards and Mabie pulling in 10 catches for 123 yards.
While the game could have gone either way and was decided in the final minutes of the game, many Bulldog fans left the stadium scratching their heads and asking, ‘what if?’ After passing up a red zone field goal opportunity and failing to convert on fourth down early in the game, Turlock proceeded to fail on three consecutive two-point conversions attempts.
“We were going for the win; it’s a game of inches,” Turlock head coach James Peterson explained. “We thought our best chance was going for two tonight and it didn’t pay off. They stuffed us. Pitman was prepared, hey, hats off. They played great.”
Pitman hit the scoreboard first when Josh Vercelli capped an 11-play drive with a one yard touchdown plunge in the opening minutes of the second quarter. Turlock responded, and seemed to even the score, on a five yard touchdown dash from Downs with nine seconds left in the half, but an incomplete pass on Turlock’s first two-point conversion attempt kept the lead it the Pride’s hands.
The two teams traded scoring shots to open the second half as Lewis set up a three yard touchdown with a 53 yard dash and Downs connected with Bubba Moreno on a five yard touchdown pass.
The Bulldogs pulled ahead of the Pride in the fourth quarter with a Jevan Hogan two-yard touchdown run but were quickly pushed back into the trail position when Pitman covered 80 yards in five plays and took a 20-18 lead on a Chance Hagar score.
Turlock was on its way to reclaim the lead, setting its offense up on Pitman’s 14 yard line, but a holding call backed them up and led to an untimely interception as the Pride’s Bryce Silva snatched Downs’ pass out of the air at the seven yard line.
That’s when Wofley sent Pitman’s faithful into hysterics with a thrilling 90 yard touchdown run on a statue of liberty play with only 1:51 left in regulation.
“We’ve been working on that play all year, we don’t run it much. It was the perfect opportunity to run it and we executed it perfectly. The line paved the way and I just ran up the hole,” Wolfley said.
“We were having a debate on what to call. We were going to call that play or another one that I liked,” Tyler said. “I got over ranked, but thank god I did.”
Turlock wasn’t finished, however, as its offense drove 70 yards in seven plays and scored on a Andrew Lopez two-yard run. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, they were unable to recover the ensuing onside kick and were forced to watch their playoff dreams dwindle with the game clock.
“I’m just real proud of my team, the way we played tonight,” Peterson said.
Turlock finished the game with 417 yards of total offense. Downs ended his high school career with 327 yards of total offense while Hogan ended his with 45 rushing yards.
Pitman compiled 381 total yards—all via the ground—and committed no turnovers in its final regular season game. Now, the Pride must prepare for the post-season.
“A lot of it depends on the matchup,” Tyler said. “Winning tonight really helps and if we can get the second seed that will really help, too.”
“We’ve been working for this all year,” Wofley said. “Bring it on.”
Playoff brackets will be released today.