It’s homecoming week for Turlock High and the Bulldogs are getting ready to play their most important game of the season.
A Turlock alum — Downey coach Jeremy Plaa — will lead his undefeated Downey Knights into Joe Debely Stadium on Friday for a showdown that should determine the Central California Athletic League champion.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
Downey enters the game 6-0 and 1-0 in CCAL play, while the Bulldogs are 3-3 and 1-0 after whipping crosstown rival Pitman 57-14 last week in the annual Harvest Bowl.
Gregori (3-4, 2-0) leads the CCAL standings by a half game, but Turlock and Downey were the preseason favorites to win the league crown.
After an uneven start to the campaign, Turlock seems to be hitting its stride following a 35-33 road win against Clayton Valley Charter and last week’s Harvest Bowl triumph.
“We just come out and do our best every week, that’s what we do,” said THS coach James Peterson. “But at the same time, it’s a tough week. There’s a lot going on with homecoming, with kids worrying about getting haircuts and getting fitted for their tux. We’re just trying to keep the focus.”
It shouldn’t be hard. The Bulldogs undoubtedly remember the 38-14 drubbing suffered at the hands of the Knights last season, which allowed Downey to become the first team other than Turlock to win a CCAL title since the league’s inception in 2018.
“It’s going to come down to whether we can get stops on defense,” said Peterson. “We’re going to play good special teams and I think we’ll be able to move the ball on offense. It’ll come down to getting stops.”
A big part of stopping Downey’s offense will be never letting them get started. And keeping the offense on the sideline is a key to that.
Turlock’s J.T. Foreman has shown what a punishing runner he can be with 123 yards rushing against Pitman, 170 against Clayton Valley and 70 yards on just five carries in a loss to Manteca. Over that stretch, Foreman is averaging 6.4 yards per attempt.
“J.T. is running like we’ve always know he could,” said Peterson. “He’s finally owning the role. His want-to, his desire … everything’s coming together for him.”
That physical style is Plaa’s main concern.
“They’re big and they’re fast and they fly around on defense,” said Plaa, a Turlock resident now in his 16th season as the head coach of the Knights. “Offensively, they’re a got good combination of talent. It’s the same type of Turlock team that we face every year.”
Pitman (1-5, 0-1) at Enochs (2-5, 0-2), 7 p.m. — With two league losses, the Eagles are officially in last place in the CCAL race. But the Pride need to shake off the effects of last week’s 57-14 loss to crosstown rival Turlock if it wants to avoid trading places with Enochs.
A league title is likely beyond Pitman’s reach at this point, but strange things sometimes happen in sports. If the Pride is to have any chance whatsoever, it has to start this week on the road at Chuck Hughes Stadium in Modesto.
Mariposa (5-1, 2-1) at Denair (1-5, 0-3), 7:15 p.m. — The Coyotes can expect to face a Grizzlies team that will be looking to get back on track after suffering its first loss of the season — a 49-0 thumping at the hands of Southern League leader Orestimba. A loss to Mariposa coupled with an Orestimba victory officially eliminates Denair from title contention.