TURLOCK -- Brent Nelle snatched the Harvest Bowl trophy from the shadows and hoisted it up for a cluster of Nikons, pocket cameras and smart phones.
Moments earlier, in a private moment along the sideline, Pitman leading man Brandon Harris shared a fist bump with one of his assistant coaches.
On Friday night, in the shadows of Turlock High and with a standing-room only crowd hanging on every play, pride took many forms.
For the seventh time in nine meetings, the Joe Debely Stadium scoreboard favored Pitman: Pride 49, Bulldogs 27.
Kody Brackett pounded the belly of the Turlock defense, Drew Lewis returned two interceptions for touchdowns and Pitman turned one of the Stanislaus District's most thrilling rivalries into a bumper crop of points.
The Pride (8-2, 3-2 Central California Conference) outscored Turlock 28-6 in the second half, blowing up a game they once trailed 21-7 in the second quarter.
"I'm just proud of the resiliency they showed after going down 21-7," said Harris, whose team rallied to tie the game at 21 by the intermission.
"They had every opportunity to give up. I'm just super proud of their resiliency and their ability to stick with the plan and not panic."
The plan, scribbled on the white board at halftime: Pound (pound, pound and pound) on Turlock (4-6, 1-4) until it cracked, and they eventually would.
Brackett was the sledgehammer. The fullback toted the ball 33 times for 170 yards and two 1-yard touchdowns in the second half. His first capped a 14-play, 72-yard drive that chewed up more than 6 minutes of game clock. By the time Brackett plunged over the goal line with 4:56 remaining in the third quarter, Sean Downs' quick-hit, 55-yard touchdown run to open the half was long forgotten.
Turlock failed to convert the extra point on Downs' scoring run, and the mishap gave Pitman a shot at its first lead of the game. It seized the moment, feeding its bulldozing fullback, the one with nicks and scrapes and blood-stained bandages.
Brackett carried the ball five times on the Pride's opening drive, and Chris Zamaripa's PAT split the uprights to make it 28-27.
"That wasn't the plan," Brackett said of his pronounced role in Pitman's Wing-T attack Friday. "It wasn't like that in practice all week, but we saw something that worked and kept going to it."
Brackett opened the fourth with another 1-yard touchdown, and Lewis, a ball-hawking defensive back, sealed it with two interceptions returns in the final 2 minutes.
His scores covered 30 and 50 yards, turning this historically tight rivalry into a rout.
Virtually unstoppable for most of the first half, Downs struggled to move the Bulldogs' offense in the final 24 minutes. He finished with 243 total yards, two rushing touchdowns and a 65-yard bomb to Cameron Matsumura, but he also was careless with the football.
He had four turnovers two fumbles, two interceptions and was sacked four times. Nick Roditis had three of the sacks and Eric Bejaran had a sack and a forced fumble.
"They did a good job of making the adjustments. We didn't change anything about what we were doing," Downs said. "There was some miscommunication and bad throws."
James Burns is Regional Sports Content Editor of The Modesto Bee and Merced Sun-Star. He can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2324.
Pitman's Kody Brackett scores his second TD of the game against Turlock.
Pitman's Kody Brackett's one-yard touchdown run and the ensuing extra point gives Pitman a 28-27 lead over Turlock.
Pitman unveils its Harvest Bowl jersey. Fresh out of the box. A lighter shade of green with a red shamrock on the chest. Pitman coach Brandon Harris is Irish and the red shamrock represents family.
Pitman High running back Brent Nell ties the game 7-7 with a six-yard touchdown run.
Turlock QB Sean Downs throws to Patrick Green for a first down.
Turlock High quarterback Sean Downs scores a touchdown on a nine-yard run.
Turlock's Brandon Esquivel scores on a one-yard touchdown run.