Tuesday was a battle of two of the state’s best high school boys soccer programs when No. 1 Bellarmine Prep hosted No. 8 Turlock High in the first round of the CIF Northern California Regional Tournament.
Heading into the game, BP was No. 4 in California and No. 15 in the country while Turlock was No. 15 in the state and No. 51 in the country.
All rankings aside, BP managed to capitalize on Turlock’s early miscues and held on for a 4-1 victory, advancing to the semifinal while booting the ‘Dogs and ending their best season to-date.
“Even through the last couple of losses, I think we still feel we are able to compete with these guys and it has been a great year,” said Turlock head coach Doug Sperry. “First time we played in the state regional game, so a lot of us didn’t know what to expect. But moving forward I think it is an advantage having been there and done that and played in a section championship game, and all the things that our guys have gone through.”
The first half was a stalemate between the two top squads and it looked that way up until the 30th minute.
Prior to that, Turlock managed to control the pace of the game with possession and saw multiple chances, including four shots from Beni Mejia that sailed just high and away.
At exactly the 30th, BP notched a goal off a cross and went up 1-0.
Five minutes later Mejia found a shot again, but yet once more, the shot sailed just above the post.
By the 38th, Isaiah Johnson was called for a foul inside the penalty box and a penalty kick ensued.
BP notched the PK with ease as the Bells went into halftime up 2-0.
“I thought really both halves we had a lot of possession controlling the game and doing real well in the middle,” said Sperry. “Again, we made a mistake letting them get that first goal in my opinion a bad call on the penalty, which is tough to give up, and it was a big difference instead of being down 1-0, so that was unfortunate. Other than that, I thought we played well. The last couple of games we just haven’t had things clicking offensively, guys are tired, it has been a long year and if you don’t do your best and make mistakes, they will beat you.”
The start of the second half wasn’t easy for the Bulldogs of Turlock as they started things uneasy and allowed a pair of goals within a two-minute frame from the 47th to the 49th. BP went up 4-0 and didn’t allow a goal until minute No. 79 when Luke Redman created space and slid a cross to Alex Mejia who then struck the back of the net to make it 4-1.
The Bulldogs’ rally was too late and that was it for the attack as they fell for just the third time this year and second consecutive.
Turlock went 3-3 in their final six games.
The only three losses of the year for Turlock came at the hands of No. 20 Pitman, No. 9 Jesuit and No. 4 Bellarmine Prep.
Turlock closes out the year with an overall record of 22-3-3. Turlock outscored opponents this year 91-18.
Bellarmine Prep moves on to the semifinals of the CIF Northern California Regional Tournament with an overall record of 19-2-3.