Turlock grabs thrilling victory over Oakdale

jcortez@modbee.comSeptember 6, 2013 

— As Turlock High tight end Patrick Green headed toward the locker room at Joe Debely Stadium on Friday night, he was asked to summon his team's placekicker before he disappeared into the steam of the Bulldogs' locker room.

Green stopped, began to call his teammate, and then realized something.

"Um, I don't know his name," said Green, one of the nation's top-rated players at his position.

Patrick, meet your kicker, Sergio Lopez, whose fourth-quarter PAT caromed off the left upright and through the posts to provide the Bulldogs the crucial point in a 21-20 victory over rival Oakdale in the season opener.

"At first, my holder held the ball at an angle, and I waited for him to set it straight," said Lopez. "I was thinking that it better go in or I'm done."

And who exactly is the holder?

"I don't know. Isaiah something," Lopez replied, unable to come up with Isaiah Mendoza's last name.

Forgive the Bulldogs if they were a little unclear on names. As head coach James Peterson said, his team might have had a case of the opening-night jitters.

"We really wanted this one," said Peterson, whose team was plagued by turnovers and muffed snaps in the first half. "There were a lot of nerves, especially when you consider our history with Oakdale. They're ruthless to play year after year."

After falling behind 14-0 — Oakdale got TD runs of 13 yards from Brock Whiting (111 yards rushing) and 12 yards from Max Stevens (91) — Turlock halved the lead when Green hauled in a 19-yard pass from quarterback Sean Downs. The 'Dogs tied the score with 2 minutes, 27 seconds, left in the third quarter when Bubba Moreno broke loose from 34 yards out to make it 14-14.

Oakdale regained the lead as the gun sounded to end the third when Stevens struck again, this time from 28, but couldn't convert the point after.

Actually, the Mustangs did convert, when holder Dillon Tamburrino picked up the muffed snap and scooted around the right end for an impromptu two-point conversion. It was called back for an illegal block.

"The referee said my holder chopped the defender," said Oakdale coach Trent Merzon, whose team outrushed Turlock 210-61 in the first half. "My holder had the ball … so I don't know."

After the penalty was marked off, Oakdale lined up for a longer kick, and the snap again was botched, so Oakdale settled for a 20-14 lead.

Two plays after the ensuing kickoff, Jevan Hogan (121 yards) broke right and outraced the Mustang secondary to the end zone for a 59-yard TD with 11:18 to play.

Enter Lopez, who's been battling a slight groin pull recently. His kicked thudded against the upright, but somehow found its way over the crossbar, for a 21-20advantage.

Oakdale marched the ball down inside Turlock's 10-yard line, but Darus Nelson (122 rushing yards) fumbled and Mendoza recovered on the 14. The Mustangs got the ball again on their 27 with 1:56 to play, but Tamburrino was picked off by Hogan on the first play of the series to seal it.

"We don't care about getting beat," said Merzon, who guided his team last season to a Division 3 section title and a trip to a state bowl. "It's about getting better. We answered a lot of questions about ourselves tonight. We've got some kids who can play.

"If we somehow complete that last pass and go in for a touchdown, does that mean we're a better team? No, it just means we woulda won."

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