Coach Jeremy Plaa breathed a sigh of relief as Gregori’s valiant last-gasp effort fell just short on Friday night.
With Downey clinging to a 20-14 lead along with hopes of a tie for the Central California Athletic League title, Gregori quarterback Marcello Longstreth, under heavy pressure, flung a 45-yard pass into the end zone as time expired. But the ball hit the ground, sending the Knights to the six-point victory and improving their record to 5-3 overall, 2-1 in the CCAL.
Downey has two games left — Pitman and Modesto. Two victories — which certainly aren’t a given — and a Pitman victory over Turlock in the Harvest Bowl on Oct. 26 would give the Knights a share of the title.
But first things first.
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“That ball was closer than it should have been,” Plaa said about Longstreth’s throw. “(A Gregori receiver) came out of nowhere and almost got it. We had Marcello in our grasp, but he’s slippery and got away and launched the ball ... gave his team a chance.”
Both teams went back and forth in the first half before Downey took a 20-14 lead in the second quarter.
Both defenses took over in the final two quarters, pitching shutouts.
“I think this gives us momentum coming into our next game,” Plaa said. “Our kids have something to play for. If we win out, and Turlock has Pitman, anything can happen in that rivalry.”
Gregori (4-4, 1-2) plays at Turlock on Friday.
Turlock 40, Enochs 13: The Bulldogs (5-3, 3-0) remained tied for first place in the CCAL with an easy victory over the Eagles (2-6, 0-3).
Lucas Curtis rushed for three touchdowns and caught a 70-yard scoring pass from quarterback Jonah Kosakiewicz as Turlock gained control early and cruised.
Three Bulldog rushers gained 50 yards or more and Kosakiewicz completed 6 of 10 passes for 160 yards.
The Bulldogs led 33-7 at halftime thanks, in part, to 1-yard TD runs by Anthony Frias and Kosakiewicz, and Kosakiewicz’s big pass to Curtis early in the second quarter to give Turlock a 20-0 lead.
Curtis, who rushed for 73 yards, had scoring runs of 30, 5 and 27 yards. Dalton Linn (63 rushing yards) and Frias (50) also helped lead a ground game that had 231 yards, averaging 7.5 yards a carry.
Jake Dirske had four solo tackles for the stout Bulldogs defense.
Pitman 21, Modesto 10: The Pride (8-0, 3-0) were down 10-7 in the second half before rallying to beat the upset-minded Panthers (4-4, 0-3), who are still looking for their first CCAL victory after opening the season 4-1.
“I know we’re a good football team,” Modesto coach Brett Wagner said. “We are contenders and we’ll continue to get better.”
The Panthers showed resilience against Pitman on Friday.
Modesto cut a 7-0 lead to 7-2 with a sack in the end zone to enter the second half down 7-2.
Midway through the third quarter, on fourth down, quarterback Alonzo Rodriguez hit Chris Bryant on a 28-yard slant play to put the Panthers ahead 10-7 heading into the fourth quarter.
Pitman, though, showing why it’s undefeated, went ahead 14-10 on a big pass play and a couple of runs that followed. After a Modesto touchdown was called back because of a penalty, the Pride put the game away with another score.
“That kind of burst the sails for us,” said Wagner of the TD that was nullified.
If Pitman can beat Downey next week, coupled with a Turlock victory over Gregori, the Harvest Bowl in Turlock on Oct. 26 will decide the first CCAL title.
Davis 42, Beyer 20: The Spartans (3-5, 2-2) won their second straight game, shutting down the winless Patriots (0-8, 0-5). Davis meets Johansen on Friday at Gregori.
Lathrop 48, Johansen 19: The Spartans (3-5, 3-2) upended the Vikings (2-6, 1-4).
Oakdale 69, Kimball 28: The Mustangs (7-2, 4-1 Valley Oak League) cruised to victory over the Jaguars (3-6, 1-4). Oakdale now has a bye week before closing out the season against Central Catholic, which had a bye this week.
If the Raiders (7-1, 4-0) beat Kimball next week — as expected — and Manteca (5-3, 3-1) handles Sierra — an Oakdale victory over Central would create a three-way tie for the VOL crown.
Oakdale beat Central Catholic in last year’s regular-season finale to clinch the VOL title. However, the Raiders would likely be entering The Corral on Oct. 26 with just one loss — to national power De La Salle in Week 2.
Merced 37, Patterson 6: Jordan Imada rushed for 90 yards but it wasn’t enough to offset the three second-half touchdowns by Desmond Thompson as the Tigers (5-4, 3-2 Central California Conference) came up short against the unbeaten Bears (8-0, 4-0), The Bee’s No. 2 large-school team.
Ripon Christian 49, Mariposa 7: The Knights (8-0, 5-0 Southern League) moved a step closer to a perfect regular-season with a big victory over the Grizzlies (2-6, 1-4). The only two games left for RC are against Le Grand and Delhi — the bottom two teams in the league.
RC led 21-0 in the second quarter and tacked on two more touchdowns on fumble recoveries for scores by Sean McGovern and Dale Fisher.
Cade Alger (186 yards passing) had three touchdown passes, including a 45-yarder to Ian Vrieling, and Michael Kamps (68 yards rushing, 90 yards receiving) ran for two and caught one to lead the Knights.
Denair 36, Delhi 6: The Coyotes (7-1, 4-1) took sole possession of second place with the victory over the Hawks (0-8, 0-5). Denair closes out the season at Mariposa on Friday before its regular-season finale against third-place Waterford (6-2, 3-2).
Orestimba 42, Waterford 21: The Warriors (5-3, 3-2) used big plays in the first half to take a 21-7 lead and went ahead 28-7 in the third quarterback before a Michael Vivo 50-yard run put the Wildcats (6-2, 3-2) to within 14. But Waterford, which had been tied with Denair for second place behind RC in the SL, couldn’t get closer.
Le Grand 7, Gustine 6: Quarterback Ivan Perez dove for a 1-yard touchdown with about seven minutes left — and Alfredo Moreno made good on the extra point attempt — as the Bulldogs (3-5, 2-3) pulled off a mild upset over the Reds (4-4, 2-3) for their second straight victory after five consecutive losses. Le Grand running back Tony Garcia rushed for 226 yards. Gustine had a shot at the win, but could not convert a 44-yard field goal attempt.