The Turlock High football team earned its spot in the postseason by playing great defense and making the most of its opportunities on offense.
That combination served the Bulldogs well again in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs Friday night.
The stingy Bulldogs defense forced six turnovers and senior quarterback Brock Paslay passed for four touchdowns as seventh-seeded Turlock dominated No. 10 Del Oro 42-21 at Joe Debely Stadium.
Turlock coach James Peterson was especially happy with his team’s passing attack after Del Oro stifled the Bulldogs’ running game much of the night.
“We played good defense all year; our special teams has been pretty good,” Peterson said. “On offense, when they can do that — throwing the ball tonight — that’s a pretty deadly team to face. That’s going to be a problem for a lot of teams.”
The Bulldogs hope their brand of football will be a problem for second-seeded Oak Ridge (8-2) next Friday night when the two teams meet in the second round in El Dorado Hills.
The Bulldogs (9-2) were dominant in beating a program that had won four of the last six Division II section titles. That success forced Del Oro (6-5) to move up to Division I for this postseason.
The Golden Eagles couldn’t keep up with a bigger, more physical Turlock team.
The game swung in Turlock’s favor late in the first half when the Bulldogs scored two touchdowns just seconds apart.
Turlock took a 14-7 lead on an Anthony Frias 10-yard TD run with less than a minute left in the second quarter. On its ensuing possession, Del Oro fumbled and on the next play Paslay connected with Dalton Linn for a 28-yard TD pass and a 21-7 lead.
The Bulldogs then poured it on in the second half, taking a 35-7 lead on Paslay’s 33-yard TD pass to Holden Baldwin with 6:57 left.
The Golden Eagles scored back-to-back TDs on a wild sequence to at least make the final few minutes interesting. The second score came on Aiden Foster’s 35-yard fumble return.
But Turlock ran out the clock and Paslay completed his big night with a 4-yard TD pass to Frias in the waning moments.
Paslay was especially impressive considering he was suffering from a nasty sinus infection.
“Neck down I feel great,” Paslay said.
As for feeling any pressure, Paslay said the playoff atmosphere was no big deal.
“We prepare the same, we just bring an extra intensity,” he said.
Senior cornerback Tyran Montgomery wore the Bulldogs’ turnover chain after the victory. He had two interceptions and a fumble recovery.
Frias finished with 116 yards on 20 carries.
Turlock’s defense limited Del Oro’s running attack to just 50 yards.
After enjoying Friday’s win, the Bulldogs will turn their attention to an Oak Ridge team that finished 4-2 in the powerful Sierra Foothill League. The Trojans defeated Del Oro 38-15 on Oct. 11.