It was a shaky beginning to the Central California Conference season for Turlock High this year. In their first six games the Bulldogs surprisingly went 1-3-2, leading many in the league to believe the defending champs were in decline.
The Bulldogs didn’t buckle under the pressure of expectations, though; instead they came together as a team and in their seventh game on Oct. 6 defeated rival Pitman High, 1-0. The win stopped Turlock’s downward slide and sparked a late season surge that saw the team tied for first place with one game to go, a scenario reminiscent of last year.
In true story book fashion the game to decide whether or not the Bulldogs would repeat as champions would be played against Pitman. So when the Pride and Bulldogs met on the soccer field Wednesday afternoon Turlock had more than its fair share of motivation, and it showed. The Bulldogs controlled much of the game, riding a wave of momentum to a 2-1 victory and the first back-to-back championship seasons in school history.
“It was perfect,” Turlock’s Doug Sperry said. “A lot of people wrote us off a long time ago but our team always believed we could win the championship.”
Turlock struck first in the 12th minute with a Martin Castoren header that sent the ball flying past the outstretched arms of Pitman’s goalie. Eight minutes later and the Bulldogs were on the board again, this time off of Jonathan Lopez’ head by way of a free kick. Pitman managed to find the net before halftime to make it 2-1 but were ultimately unable to overcome the Bulldog lead in the second half.
“We didn’t want to get too defensive, we wanted to attack and try to give ourselves a cushion,” Sperry said. “It was a total team effort. For us to win everyone has to give 100 percent and work together and we’ve done a good job of doing that.”
This season’s CCC crown is the third in Turlock’s history of boys soccer, the second under Sperry’s command.
“Our program has come so far in the last few years,” Sperry said. “To win it two years in a row says a lot about the players in the program and how hard they’ve worked.”
Turlock must now prepare for the San Joaquin Section playoffs which begin with a home game against Johansen High on Tuesday. Last year Turlock made it to the quarterfinal round, a feat Sperry and his boys plan to repeat — and better.
“I think we’ll do really well,” Sperry said. “The guys are exited; this is what they’ve wanted.”