High School Football

Late interception helps Turlock hold off Downey in thrilling CCAL opener

Turlock needed one defensive play to win Friday’s Central California Athletic league opener against Downey and Bulldogs senior defensive lineman Garret Fountain came up big when it mattered the most.

With under 40 seconds left in the game and the Knights deep in Bulldogs territory, Fountain intercepted a Bryce Gouker pass to give Turlock a 30-24 win at Joe Debely Stadium.

“He came out and rolled and I saw him overthrow it and I came up and went for the ball and caught it,” Fountain said. “I got lucky.”

After the interception, Fountain celebrated with his teammates and gave the already rambunctious crowd something to celebrate on the Bulldogs’ Homecoming Night.

“Big-time players make big-time plays,” Turlock head coach James Peterson said.

Fountain’s game-ending interception came after two pass interference calls on the Bulldogs (3-3, 1-0) brought the Knights to the red zone.

“We battled through adversity,” Peterson said. “I tell the team, ‘Don’t worry, you can not change what the refs call. All you can do is take care of your actions.’”

The red zone was a big issue for the Bulldogs in the first half as they had four empty possessions, including an 88-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown by Downey junior Lawrence Harris on Turlock’s first drive of the game.

“Our defense did well,” Knights coach Jeremy Plaa said. “We stopped them when we needed to.”

On a fourth-and-one from Downey’s 17-yard line, senior running back Lucas Curtis found an open hole and went down the right sideline for a touchdown to tie the game at 7 with 5:38 left in the first quarter.

Gouker got the start replacing freshman Beau Green, who was still nursing a shoulder sprain suffered on Sept. 14. Early on, Gouker was connecting with all of his receivers on short passes and completed his first six passing attempts, including a 50-yard touchdown to junior running back Robert Rivera on the final play of the first quarter to give the Knights (3-3, 0-1) a 14-7 lead.

Turlock had two more fumbles in the red zone and a stalled a drive on Downey’s two-yard line before junior running back Rio Rogers scored on a 11-yard run right before halftime to tie the game at 14.

“We struggled taking care of the ball today,” Peterson said. “We put the ball on ground too much. All the guys involved in the exchange need to take their job seriously next week.”

Led by 6-foot-8, 290-pound junior offensive lineman Everett Johnson opening holes, the Bulldogs rushing attack took control in the second half with Kosakiewicz scoring on a one-yard keeper with 8:16 left in the third as Turlock re-gained the lead, 21-17.

Turlock ran for close to 300 yards on the night and Curtis and Rogers each had over 100 yards on the ground.

“We had to put our hand in the dirt and just out-man them,” Johnson said. “All the running backs were grinding every single yard. They were just absolutely amazing tonight.”

On the first play following Kosakiewicz’s touchdown run, junior linebacker Jayden Jackson caught a tipped ball and ran it 17 yards into the end zone to give Turlock a 27-17 lead.

Gouker connected with a wide-open Jordan Wilson for a 23-yard touchdown pass with 6:42 left. Gouker finished with 275 passing yards and two touchdowns, but had three interceptions in the second half.

“The offense needs to execute a little bit better,” Plaa said. “We came one play away from taking the lead.”

Turlock is at Modesto next Friday, while Downey hosts Enochs on Thursday.