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Turlock tops Freedom High in preseason opener
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Anthony Frias gains yards for the Bulldogs Friday against Freedom. Frias had the most carries (26) and 131 yards (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

The Turlock High varsity football team kicked off their season on a high note Friday night, defeating Freedom High 21-7 on a night that saw the Bulldogs compete from both sides of the ball.

“It feels great, man,” THS head coach James Peterson said. “The defense came out and did a great job. I felt like the offense executed at times enough to put a couple of points on the board and we just maintained it.”

It was a hard fought game by both teams and the first touchdown of the game didn’t come until there were just under four minutes left in the first half — a five-yard run from junior running back Josiah Gonzales, who scored two of the team’s three touchdowns after coming in to give senior running back Anthony Frias a break.

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Turlock's Brock Paslay hands the ball to Anthony Frias during the game against Freedom Friday. The Bulldogs won 21-7 (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

With just 21 total yards and four touches on the night, Gonzales took advantage of the opportunity when he heard his name called, he said.

“I’m not the starter, so I just came out when I could…I’m behind (Frias) on the depth chart, so whenever I got an opportunity I just hit it hard for him…he deserves a lot of the credit; he got us down the field and I came in when he was hurt, and from there I just worked with it,” Gonzales said.

Gonzales’ fresh legs off the bench paid off for Turlock, Peterson said.

“He’s hungry — he wants to score and be the guy, too. That’s what we preach. If you’re not the starter, you have to want to be the starter and try to be that guy,” he said. “When his number gets called, obviously, he takes full advantage.”

Frias did play a majority of the game, totaling 131 yards on 26 carries. Frias accounted for nearly half of the Bulldogs’ total yards, who finished the game with 273. After missing the point after attempt on Gonzales’ first touchdown, the Bulldogs went up 14-0 with just seconds left in the first half after an eight-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Brock Paslay to wide receiver Holden Baldwin, followed by a two-point conversion.

It was Paslay’s first start as Turlock’s first-string quarterback after playing behind Jonah Kosakiewicz last season, but the Bulldogs’ smashmouth offense saw the team earn most of its yards via the running game.

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Jayden Jackson doesn't allow his Freedom opponent to gain yards during the game Friday (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

“We’re a running team. We like to run the ball,” Peterson said. “We have a Cal-commit tackle (Everett Johnson) and we have a great running back in Anthony Frias. I feel like we can run the ball all the time, so it’s just something we’re going to do all year.”

The Bulldogs’ third and final touchdown of the game also came by way of the rush, thanks to a two-yard dart into the endzone from Gonzales early in the fourth quarter.

While Freedom amassed more total yards than Turlock with 304, big moments by the Bulldog defense helped keep the Falcons at bay. The defense had five sacks, one interception and a fumble recovery and were able to stifle four fourth down attempts by the Falcons. Freedom was able to scrape one touchdown across the goal line with 43 seconds left in the game, but it was too little too late.

Though Turlock graduated multiple defenders last year, Peterson said they passed on much more than just knowledge to this year’s team.

“It’s the leadership, they always pass it down,” he said. “If I have great leaders, I notice the next year we have a great team coming in.”

With the preseason win, the Bulldogs are 1-0 on the season. Next week, they’ll take on Clayton Valley Charter on the road in Concord at 7 p.m.