Turlock junior running back Josiah Gonzales was looking for an opportunity.
With senior Anthony Frias leaving in the first quarter with a neck injury, Gonzales had a heavier-than-normal workload and responded with three rushing touchdowns as Turlock beat Downey, 44-27, at Chuck Hughes Stadium on Friday in a Central California Athletic League game.
“I loved it,” said Gonzales, who had 29 carries for 204 yards. “I have a lot more in store and we made a big statement.”
On the game’s second play, Gonzales scored untouched on a 54-yard touchdown run.
The Bulldogs installed a new play called “Blue Bear,” where they line up in a spread formation, including the linemen, before tightly coming together and running the ball.
Gonzales’ run was the first time they called the play and they would use it throughout the game.
“It’s something new,” Bulldogs coach James Peterson said. “We are adding little wrinkles to our offense.”
The game between two of the top teams in the CCAL was close throughout as Turlock (1-0, 4-2) led 10-6 after the first quarter and 24-14 at halftime. The Bulldogs carried a four-point lead into the fourth quarter.
Early in the fourth, Downey (0-1, 3-3) had 1st-and-goal from the 1-yard line and after three negative plays, senior quarterback Bryce Gouker connected with senior wide receiver Lawrence Harris for a touchdown, giving the Knights’ their first lead.
However, the Bulldogs quickly responded when senior quarterback Brock Paslay tossed a 15-yard slant to Holden Baldwin, who took it the rest of the way for a 42-yard touchdown and a 30-27 lead with 7 minutes, 57 seconds.
After Downey turned the ball over on downs, Gonzales rushed for a TD with a little over five minutes left and senior running back Dalton Linn scored on another with 55 seconds remaining.
Peterson said his team used the bye week to clean up some early season sloppiness.
“We have been facing some tough defenses and needed to get back to the basics and work on blocking and tackling,” he said.
In a chippy game, with both teams exchanging words, the Knights had several costly penalties that negated big plays in the fourth quarter.
“We can’t have those,” Downey coach Jeremy Plaa said. “Those were self-inflicted.”
Plaa said he was worried about the confidence level of his team after two straight losses before the bye week. The Knights had been outscored 104-26 in defeats to McClymonds and Escalon.
In the end, Plaa was proud of his players’ efforts on Friday.
Senior running back Robert Rivera, who battled leg cramps throughout the game, had 23 carries for 39 yards and a touchdown and nine receptions for 59 yards and a touchdown.
“He is one of the toughest kids in the CCAL,” Plaa said.
Turlock improved its all-time record against Downey to 28-26-3.
“We need to stop the power run game,” Plaa said. “We have faced three tough foes in a row and need to control ourselves.”