TURLOCK -- Eli Gutierrez wasn't about to allow the game to come down to his boot.
With kicker Daniel Silva sidelined with a foot injury, and replacement Brendan Yaley out of Friday night's game early with a back injury, the kicking duties fell to Gutierrez.
He made the only extra point he attempted, but no one wanted to see a Central California Conference classic to come down to a chance kick.
Gutierrez and receiver Bradley Adamson made sure it was a non-issue.
The pair hooked up on a pass to the left flat with 3 minutes, 32 seconds, to play. Adamson did the rest, tip-toeing along the sideline and diving the last five yards for the pylon to secure a 19-14 road victory over Turlock.
"It's nice to have have a guy like Bradley that you can got to when you need a play," said Gutierrez, who finished with 149 yards of total offense and two touchdown passes. "Especially when they keep giving him single coverage. He doesn't need a whole lot of space. I just need to put it there and he'll go get it."
The Adamson score was Merced's first and only lead on a night in which its normally high-octane offense struggled to get in gear.
The Bulldogs and quarterback Sean Downs, on the other hand, clicked from the beginning.
Downs (177 rushing yards and 130 passing) marched Turlock (0-1 CCC, 3-3) right back down the field, pushing the ball inside the Merced 10-yard line with under a minute to play.
But despite yielding almost 400 yards of total offense in the game, the Bears' defense as it had all night found a way to turn the Bulldogs away when it mattered most.
On a third-and-6 play, Downs rolled right and then threw back into the middle of the field. Merced's David Keys intercepted the pass to secure the victory.
"I guess the one good thing in all this, was our defense played really well," Merced coach Rob Scheidt said. "It was a kind of a bend-but-don't-break situation, which we aided with some bad penalties. But we made plays when we had to."
For the first time all season, the Merced (1-0 CCC, 4-2) offense didn't seem to be on the same page. Dropped passes, miscommunications, penalties and Turlock's dismantling of the run game limited the Bears to just 64 total yards in the first half. It forced the Merced defense to keep the Bears in it.
Turlock drove past the Merced 10 twice in the opening half and came away with nothing. A late hit when the Bulldogs had a second-and-goal situation at the Merced 1-yard line killed a drive and they eventually turned it over on downs. A 23-yard field goal attempt went wide right on Turlock's next possession, keeping it scoreless at intermission.
Merced's Errol Dennis scores against Turlock (Merced Sun-Star)
Merced's David Keys comes through with late pick to beat Turlock (Merced Sun-Star)
Merced's Bradley Adamson stretches for a TD to help beat Turlock (Merced Sun-Star)