Turlock and Pitman High came together on Friday night for the 9th Annual Harvest Bowl —a matchup that has become more of an event and not just your typical football game. The two crosstown rivals lived up to the hype once the whistle blew, exchanging hard hits, touchdowns, and attitudes. In the end, the Pride weathered an early Turlock storm on their way to a 49-27 victory and the school’s seventh Harvest Bowl win.
“The Turlock guys fought extremely hard,” Pitman’s head coach Brandon Harris said. “We were real fortunate at the end; I’m really proud of our guys.”
Before the two teams traded touchdowns they traded turnovers. Turlock got the turnover frenzy started with a Brandon Esquivel interception on Pitman’s first drive but was followed by a lost fumble on the first play of Turlock’s ensuing possession. The momentum shifted again, four plays later however, when Esquivel again took the ball away from the Pride, this time by jumping on a Mario Lewis fumble and giving his team the ball on their 26 yard line.
“I think it was the hard hitting and a little bit of nerves,” Harris said of the early mistakes.
The Bulldogs, led by quarterback Sean Downs, capitalized on Pitman’s second turnover with a seven-play drive that ended with a 9 yard Downs touchdown. Plagued by penalties, Pitman failed to produce an effective offensive attack for the rest of the first quarter. Brent Nelle finally managed to put the Pride on the board 7:29 into the second quarter on a six yard touchdown run only to have the Bulldogs rip back the lead with one play— a 75 yard touchdown strike to Cameron Matsumura. Turlock scored its third touchdown of the game four minutes later as Esquivel found the end zone from one yard out to make it 21-7.
Rather than break down and lose their morale, the Pride opted to fight back with a big play of their own. Quarterback Wyatt Clapper connected with Nelle on a 60 yard touchdown on a one play drive; pulling his team within a touchdown of Turlock. The crowd pleasing score set up an 11 yard pass and catch to Justin Van Fleet in the end zone to tie the game with 36 seconds in the half and make it 21-21.
“We’re obviously proud of our resilience,” Harris said. “We took Turlock’s best shot and we didn’t fold.”
Turlock seemed unfazed as it entered the third quarter, taking only two plays to find pay dirt as Downs zig-zagged his way through Pitman’s defense on his way to a 55 yard touchdown. The Bulldog fireworks ceased to spark after that, however, as the offensive line succumbed to the pressure of the Pride defense.
After Kody Brackett’s one yard touchdown gave Pitman a 28-27 lead with 4:56 left in the third quarter, Pitman’s defense allowed only 26 yards of total offense from Turlock, stripped and recovered the ball from Down’s hands, recorded two sacks, and returned two interceptions for touchdowns. Drew Lewis provided both defensive scores on nearly identical passes, the first from 30 yards out and the second from 45 yards out.
“Our guys settled down and the defense staff did a great job with their adjustments,” Harris said.
Although everyone seemed to contribute to the win it was Pitman’s ability to convert on fourth down and Brackett’s battering running style that ensured victory for the Pride. By the game’s end Pitman recorded five fourth down conversions and Brackett piled up 163 yards. Nelle also racked up decent yardage, recording 141 yards through the air and ground.
The loss ends any hope Turlock had of a post-season berth. Pitman must now wait for the Division I SJS Playoff bracket to be released to find out who its first-round opponent will be.
“Hopefully we get a home game,” Harris said. “Whoever we get we’re going to do our best to get ready, but we’ll think about that tomorrow.”