On Friday night, Kevin Kramer made a special appearance at Joe Debely Stadium.
Like last year, he wore No.7.
Like last year, he ran the ball with aggressiveness — and even finished with two rushing touchdowns.
Like last year, he threw the ball quite well.
Like last year, he led his Bulldogs to a season-opening win over Downey High — this time, it was a 12-7 triumph in front of thousands of fans.
Oh, wait? Kevin Kramer graduated?
On Friday night, sophomore Sean Downs, who also wears No. 7, did a nice impression of his predecessor. He rushed for 100-plus yards and threw 8 of 15 passes for nearly 100 yards, though he coughed up an interception — a performance that made people wonder who was really underneath that uniform.
“I thought he wasn’t going to do that good because he’s a sophomore, but he stepped up,” said defensive back Bradli Badali, who ended the game with an interception. “He’s like a mini-Kevin Kramer.”
Told of Badali’s assertion, Turlock coach James Peterson quipped, “He might be. He kind of looked like him tonight. He’s kinda of scary in that No. 7. Maybe a little Kevin Kramer is still here.”
Of course, the real Kevin Kramer is no longer playing for Turlock. He’s at UCLA on a baseball scholarship. And on this night, the Bulldogs were happy with his replacement after Downs capped off a 14-play drive with a 6-yard touchdown run with 7:53 left in the second and another 7-yard score late in the third to give the Bulldogs a 12-7 edge.
The Bulldogs were also happy with this year’s defense. Despite allowing Downey quarterback Aaron Zwahlen to complete 16 passes for 200-plus yards, they came up big when it counted. They forced two interceptions, including one by Niko Lombrana, and shut down the Downey offense when the Knights tried to reverse the ball on fourth-and-14 at the Turlock 14 with about 2 minutes left in the game.
Turlock then shut down the Knights again on their final series, when defensive lineman Anthony Lopez came up with a sack for a 13-yard loss, when Bryson Yori broke up a pass when Badali came up with his interception to seal the victory.
The Bulldogs also recovered three fumbles.
“We played man-defense,” Badali said. “We had to lock on our guy. We had every guy covered. We played hard defense. And our line was smashing their line, so that helped us a lot.”
Badali’s interception also sealed a big night for Downs, who, as a sophomore, has more than the ball bag to carry after the game. He also has to carry the expectations of succeeding Kevin Kramer.
Downs did just fine, his coach said.
“I wanted him to have a good experience. I wanted things to go well for him,” Peterson said. “I don’t think it could have gone better.”
To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.