Just when Tuesday night’s game against Merced High seemed to be comfortably in their hands, the Turlock High boys soccer players were given a cruel wakeup call in the form of an opposing goal slicing through the air and landing in the back of their net.
Before the shot went in, the Bulldogs were boasting a two-goal lead.
After the shot went in, it was time to respond.
Turlock managed to survive a persistent Merced team with two second-half goals to win 5-2 and improve their Central California Conference record to 3-1-2.
Bulldogs coach Doug Sperry said the triumph will give his team a confidence boost, after suffering a one-goal loss to league contender Golden Valley High and settling for a bittersweet 1-1 tie with cross-town rival Pitman High all in the same week.
“We have a really talented team this year but just haven’t been able to put it all together,” Sperry said. “We haven’t been able to finish and we tied a few games, had some tough ones. So hopefully, this will be the one that will turn things around for us.”
Junior Jose Ortega led the Bulldogs with two goals, with his second one being the most critical. With that one, he executed a penalty kick in the 59th minute after a teammate drew a foul inside the box to give Turlock a 4-2 advantage.
It helped the Bulldogs avoid going into panic mode, considering Merced forward Octavio Murillo secured his second goal of the night early in the second half by speeding past Turlock defenders and cutting the lead to 3-2.
“That woke us up,” Sperry said.
Then came Ortega’s successful penalty kick. Soon after, junior forward Ricky Bravo managed to keep the ball down the right sideline before he got away from a Merced defender to give the Bulldogs their final score, 5-2. Those goals were a relief, the Bulldogs said.
“We just had to score,” Ortega said. “We had to get back in it.”
In the first half, the Bulldogs were in control. Actually, they made that obvious just a minute into the game, which was held under the bright lights of Joe Debely Stadium. Edwin Rodriguez raced past a number of Merced players to give his team a 1-0 lead. After Murillo’s first goal for the Bears, Ethan Tait then made it 2-1 on a rebound shot in front of the goal.
That wasn’t enough. Ortega raced toward the goal with a defender on his back, but he still powered in a goal from the left side in the 35th minute. Shortly after, he had a similar opportunity. This time, he was knocked down and hit the goal post, badly hurting his knee. He had to leave the game, but he reentered in the second half to capitalize on the crucial penalty kick.
In other words, the Bulldogs responded.
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