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Turlock falls to Oakdale in final minute
Andrew Lopez tries to gain huge yardage as he goes head to head with his Oakdale opponent on Friday night. - photo by CANDY PADILLA / The Journal

It’s cliché, but when it comes to football the team that commits the most errors typically ends up on the losing side of the scoreboard, especially when it’s a neck and neck competition.

Such was the case Friday night in Oakdale when Turlock High traveled to face last year’s Valley Oak League runner ups Oakdale High. The Bulldogs hit the Mustangs with a balanced offensive attack and an aggressive defensive unit that kept Oakdale reeling for most of the game, but when it counted the most Turlock’s special teams came up just short as they provided two huge momentum shifts for Oakdale—costly mistakes in the 30-29 loss.

“We talk about it all the time. We’ve got to play a complete game, offense, defense, and special teams,” Turlock head coach James Peterson said. “This one’s on me though. I’m the head coach, I made a bad decision on special teams and we didn’t get what we needed to get done. We’re going to try and get that stuff fixed this weekend, that’s what we’re going to do and see how we can move on from here.”

Turlock got off to a shaky start on offense when quarterback Bubba Moreno threw an interception on the fourth play from scrimmage, but the Bulldogs bounced back with a 14 play, 80-yard scoring drive that was capped by a Danny Velasquez 3-yard touchdown dive. But Turlock’s celebration was short-lived as Oakdale’s Darus Nelson evened the score with an 82-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

Oakdale found itself knocking on the door of Turlock’s end zone once again on their next drive, but a backfield tackle from Turlock linebacker Mustafa Johnson took the Mustangs from Turlock’s 3-yard line to its 9-yard line and forced a field goal to make it 10-7.

Turlock responded by driving 82 yards in 10 plays to take a four-point lead off a 18-yard touchdown pass from Moreno to Jacob Mabie. Turlock entered the half with a 14-10 lead and 94 more yards of total offense.

“My guys battled all way through and I’m very proud of that. The attitude and effort was great throughout,” Peterson said. “I like the balance of our offense.”

The Bulldogs started the second half exactly as they started the first half, by throwing an interception on their first possession and scoring on their second. After watching an 18-yard touchdown pass be waved off due to a holding penalty, Moreno again connected with Mabie on a 28-yard touchdown pass to extend Turlock’s lead.

Oakdale and Turlock then traded 8-point scoring drives, both of which came off big runs. The Mustangs scored their second touchdown of the game off a 35-yard touchdown run by Nelson, which was met by Turlock’s Andrew Lopez who sprinted down the right sideline from 63 yards out for Turlock’s third touchdown of the game.

Turlock’s defense held strong until the 5:48 mark of the fourth quarter when Oakdale quarterback Adam Olsen executed a 23-yard touchdown scramble to cut Turlock’s lead by five points. Oakdale then exploited the second mistake committed by Turlock‘s special teams when Alex Pallios fumbled away the kickoff return and the game’s momentum.

With less than a minute left in regulation, Oakdale hit the death nail when a one-yard touchdown plunge from its fullback capped a nine-play drive and gave the Mustangs a one-point lead that they carried to victory.

“They’re a tough team. This is Oakdale; we’re in the Corral right now. This is a state championship (team) many times over,” Peterson said.  “That’s why we play Oakdale every year. They will stay on the schedule as long as they will play me, as long as I’m a head coach here because this is the type of team that we strive to beat.”

Turlock finished with 419 total yards from scrimmage while Oakdale finished with 328 total yards from scrimmage—the second half was nearly even with Oakdale recording 239 total yards and Turlock recording 236 total yards.

Moreno finished the game with 147 passing yards and two touchdowns on top of 54 rushing yards. Mabie notched 65 reception yards and two touchdown grabs while Jeffery Hines reeled in 58 reception yards.

Turlock will face Clovis West High next week at home.

“We’ve got a very tough team coming in to our home opener this week, and really that’s where my mind is turning to now. I’m turning the page past this. I thought we played a complete game as far as our intensity, however, there were some mental errors here and there that ended up costing us big,” Peterson said.  “Honestly, we’re going to see speed that we usually don’t see until playoffs I would say. I’m excited with our chances. Our game plan is going to be much different than the other teams in the area.”