TURLOCK -- Turlock High didn't come close to winning a game last fall, struggling on both sides of the line during an 0-10 season that was the worst in school history.
Defensive tackle Brett Garris was part of that train wreck, as the defense allowed a whopping 49 points a game. He was determined to make sure it didn't happen again.
"No more complaining, no more whining and no more excuses," said Garris, repeating the mantra that began with the opening of fall practice. "Work hard and we win."
Garris and the Bulldogs' defense proved their point Friday night, surviving a couple of 80-yard touchdown passes on the way to a 24-21 upset over Modesto in a showdown between The Bee's top-ranked teams.
Modesto (3-1) was ranked No. 1 following last week's 37-34 win over Sonora, a game it won on a field goal on the last play. Believe it or not, that's about how this one ended.
Turlock (4-0) drove 72 yards in 1 minute, 45 seconds, reaching the 9 before Dominic Breshears came in to kick a 26-yard field goal with 6 seconds left, snapping the 21-all tie.
It was an interesting choice, because kicking was a problem for both teams. Modesto's Julian Gallo missed kicks of 24 and 31 yards in the first half, while Breshears had misfired on attempts from 30 and 20 yards.
The latter miss came with 2:11 to play and would have all but sealed Turlock's victory.
On the first play following the miss, Klayton Miller hurled an 80-yard TD pass down the right side to Geoff Washington. He fired an 80-yarder to James Waters late in the first half for Modesto's 14-7 halftime lead.
Aisde from those bombs, Turlock withstood the constant threat presented by the Panthers' potent attack.
With the thick-bodied Garris (5-10, 230 pounds) and rangy Jake Davey (6-3, 190) regularly shedding blockers, Turlock gave up just 115 yards rushing on 37 carries -- a mere 3.1-yard average.
"Our guys stayed at home and didn't overpursue, having faith their teammates would do the same thing," coach James Peterson said. "Modesto is very dangerous when you let them cut back, so all week we were telling kids they had to stay home."
Modesto's Arquel Rogers, who had run for 392 yards in three games and was averaging 15 yards a carry, had 45 yards on 14 carries. Miller, the district's No. 4 rusher (368 yards), had 57 yards.
The key was stifling Rogers, who had 10 carries of 2 yards or less. His 25-yard TD catch gave Modesto a 7-0 lead in the first quarter, but he was quiet after that play.
"We knew Modesto, with its speed, would break some big plays," said Peterson, whose club ran for 339 yards behind QB Kevin Kramer (21 carries, 156 yards) and halfback Ricky Fuentes (9 carries, 155 yards). "We tackled well, we hit hard. This is the game I expected, though I thought our defense would be giving up one less score."
Modesto was averaging 42 points a game, and the only real damage it did against Turlock was the two bombs.
Miller threw to the receiver who was in single-coverage on both plays, having to go away from Waters on his fourth-quarter TD pass.
"They had James blanketed with a cornerback, a defender behind that and safety in the middle," said Miller, 10-of-14 for 260 yards. "I don't think they realized Geoff is faster than James."
It's tough for the offense, no matter how fast, to score while on the sidelines. The Panthers' big-play kids spent much of the second half stuck on the bench.
Turlock ran six times for 40 yards in the first half, managing just 11 plays in the opening 24 minutes. It dominated the second half, with 32 runs for 299 yards.
While Kramer got the big yards on the game-winning drive -- running for 61 and tossing a 17-yard pass to Bradli Bodali at the Modesto 12 -- it was Fuentes who continually frustrated Modesto's overpursuing defense.
"I would sweep to the sideline, then cut back when the defense overran the play," said Fuentes, who had runs of 40, 26 and 54 yards. "I look for the defense to get out of position, then I cut up and get past them while they go out there wider and wider."
Bee staff writer Richard T. Estrada can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2300.