Hundreds of balloons rose slowly toward the heavens Friday night for two fallen Enochs High Eagles.
A grieving football team poured out the full measure of effort for teammates Kaylan Carter and Bruno Diaz, who both died during the summer, prompting the touching pregame tribute at Chuck Hughes Stadium.
It wasn't enough unbeaten Turlock prevailed 27-8 but Enochs (0-3) remained a scrappy and inspired underdog.
"We played for them, but that shouldn't be the only thing that drives us," Enochs junior quarterback Shawn Munoz said. "It's just hard for us to figure out."
Enochs (0-3), mauled by Pitman and Buhach Colony the first two weeks, did not submit until Turlock's Patrick Green wheeled through the line and blocked a punt with 6:59 left. Six plays later from the 2, Bubba Moreno burst over the goal line to clinch the victory.
Turlock (3-0) rallied for three touchdowns before the game was barely 13 minutes old. Green, the coveted Division I-level tight end, opened by catching an 18-yard touchdown pass from Sean Downs.
Fittingly, Green capped the game with his special-teams gem.
"Patrick is a D-1 player," Turlock coach James Peterson said. "That's what big-time players do."
But in a mild surprise, the Bulldogs didn't follow through on their fast start. Enochs, outmatched but stubborn, hung around the periphery. The Eagles got Turlock's attention by marching 67 yards during the second period for their only TD. The payoff was a beauty. Receiver Brandon Williams dived low amid traffic in the end zone to snare Munoz's 15-yard pass. McCoy Kent, the Eagles' plucky wrestling star, pounded in for the 2-point conversion.
Favorable field position, despite being outgained 370-210, encouraged Enochs. But drives fizzled at the Turlock 36, 31 and 21, the last on a costly fumble late in the half.
Turlock occasionally showed the explosiveness that carried them to hard-fought wins over Oakdale and Sonora. Javan Hogan (7 carried, 64 yards) outflanked Enochs with his speed and accounted for touchdowns of 3 and 9 yards.
Moreno (14 carries, 80 yards) even displayed some passing skill. Downs, the Bulldogs' third-year quarterback, was 8 of 14 for 96 yards and survived some hard hits from the Enochs defense.
Turlock took a knee at the Enochs 3 as the game ended in a proper show of sportsmanship. The Bulldogs may not have overpowered Enochs but they won the turnover battled 2-0 and, with that, the game.
Enochs coach James Stacy and his staff complimented their squad for a gutsy performance.
Said Munoz, "If we find our hearts, we can do some good things,"