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Turlock drops close one to Merced
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Turlocks Brandon Esquivel evades a Merced tackler during Fridays close loss to the Bears. - photo by ANDREW GRAHAM / The Journal

In support of Breast Cancer Awareness month, Joe Debely Field was filled with pink tape, towels, wrist bands, and socks, as Turlock High (3-3) took on Merced (4-2) Friday night.

The first half was all defense and littered with penalty flags as the two teams split possessions at four a piece.

The Turlock offense racked up 217 yards in the half without ever finding pay dirt. A field goal attempt that missed wide left at the end of the first Bulldog drive of the second quarter was the only chance of scoring a play in the first half.

At half time the scoreboard showed all zeros. As the wind picked up and the first signs of true fall weather sank in, the excitement followed. Turlock marched 73 yards on a 15 play drive to start the second half. The drive featured a 20 yard run by Dashawn Holcombe, and a 22 yard run by Austin Kelting. After soaking up nearly half of the third quarter clock, Bulldog quarterback Sean Downs found the end zone with the one yard keeper. With the extra point good, Turlock led 7-0.

Turlock had momentum on their side as they forced Merced to punt on their next possession, however, the Bears resorted to trickery as Travante Richard did not punt, and instead tucked the football and ran for 21 yards picking up the first down. With 4:00 remaining in the third quarter, Bradley Adamson put the Bears on the board with a 20 yard run.

Turlock scored once more in the third quarter on a Downs 41 yard touchdown run, but sure enough, Merced answered back in their first drive of the fourth quarter. A failed two point conversion by the Bears kept the Bulldogs ahead 14-13.

Kelting had the ball once again in the next drive for a big 12 yard gain for the bulldogs, but with 5:00 left in the game they were forced to punt and rely on the defense to hold onto the one point lead.

A huge sac by Patrick Green on the first play following the punt for a four yard loss was just want the Bulldogs needed. However, Merced answered with a 45 yard pass by Eli Gutierrez to convert on third down. Back-to-back questionable pass interference calls against Turlock put the Bears on the 12 yard line where Gutierrez finished with the touchdown pass with 3:32 left on the clock to put Merced ahead 19-14.

“Penalties are everything in a high school football game,” Turlock head coach James Peterson said.

With 40 seconds left in the game, Turlock was knocking on the door for a game winner when Downs’s final throw of the game was intercepted in the end zone. Merced lined up in victory formation and took a knee as the last few seconds ticked away with a 19-14 final score.

“If we can stay on schedule and minimize mistakes, we will have a very good shot against Golden Valley next week, who is a very good football team,” Peterson said.

The Bulldogs will look to defend their home turf and get back in the win column next Friday night against Golden Valley High.