For the first time since the regular season ended, Turlock High’s future looked bleak Wednesday night. After keeping their opponents off the scoreboard on their way to the Division II SJS semi-final match, the Bulldogs found themselves trailing Folsom High 1-0 with less than 10 minutes left in regulation.
With the odds stacked, Turlock continued to press its Bulldog counterparts until finally, in the 32nd minute, relief swept down its sideline in the form of a Jose Aguilera goal. Less than five minutes later, relief was replaced with excitement and celebration as Aguilera again bested Folsom’s goalie for the go ahead score and a trip to today's Section Final.
“They were so excited. To be down and come back and score two goals, I think they were overwhelmed,” Turlock’s head coach Doug Sperry said. “It’s another credit to how hard they worked. It shows how much heart they have and their never quit attitude.”
Despite the close score, Turlock controlled the majority of the match with its quick offensive attack and constant defensive pressure. While Folsom failed to find a path to the goal during the first half, Turlock found itself with a handful of scoring opportunities. Martin Castoren alone had three near goals that missed the net by a matter of feet, but like the rest of his teammates he was unable to capitalize, making it a scoreless affair as the two teams entered halftime.
“The score could have easily been 4-0 at halftime, we just didn’t finish,” Sperry said. “We were playing well but they were kind of down, so I told them to keep working. That’s all we needed to do.”
Folsom scored in the 25th minute of the second half, further disappointing a Turlock squad frustrated with its lack of execution, but Desmond Madrigal’s free kick assist to Aguilera was the turning point Turlock needed. Castoren’s through pass to Aguilera for his fourth goal of the tournament was a fitting end to a path of teamwork that put Turlock in its current position.
“It was hard not to be disappointed with only 15 minutes left, but at the same time 15 minutes is a lot of time on the clock and we knew a lot of things could happen,” Sperry said.
Turlock will face Bella Vista High at Lincoln High today. The match, one of four of the day’s section finals, will be played at 4p.m. This is Turlock’s first appearance in a Division II final and only its second overall final in school history.
“It’s amazing,” Sperry said. “I’m so happy for them. They deserve it and I’m excited everything’s worked out so far.