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Bulldogs share league title with Modesto
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Cruz Flores pointed to his T-shirt while celebrating with his teammates and coaches near the 50-yard line on a cold and rainy night at Ceres High School on Thursday. Members of the Ceres High football team wore white shirts under their pads with the slogan '1 Game-1 Play at a Time-Believe.'

"Everybody was focused this week on Downey," said Flores, Ceres High's top receiver. "There was no messing around at practice.

"We wanted it more."

Added Ceres quarterback Derrick Goblirsch: "We knew we could do it. We knew we were the better team. We were determined."

The Bulldogs battled back from a 10-point halftime deficit and defeated Downey 26-24. They claimed a share of the Modesto Metro Conference title and berth in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs.

Ceres ended Downey's season.

The top two teams in the MMC made the playoffs.

The Bulldogs tied for first with Modesto High in the league standings at 4-1 and improved to 6-4 overall. Downey compiled a 3-2 record in the MMC and went 6-4 overall.

"This year, we made history," said Ceres safety Brian Borges. "We're the first MMC champs."

A year ago, the Bulldogs would have claimed a share of the Central California Conference title if they didn't lose to Downey.

"Two years in a row would have been so disappointing," Goblirsch said.

Ray Robles rushed for 93 yards and scored three touchdowns for Ceres, which outscored Downey 19-7 in the second half. The Bulldogs allowed 124 yards of total offense, including just 20 rushing.

"They were overconfident," Robles said. "They were doing a lot of trash talking."

Added Goblirsch: "The defense stepped it up in the second half."

Ceres scored twice in the span of 3 minutes, 30 seconds in the third quarter to take a 20-17 lead.

Luis Malagon recovered Daniel Gonzalez's fumble at the Downey 33. Two plays later, Dingko Luangchai broke three tackles and scored from 30 yards out on a draw play to cut the Knights' lead to 17-13.

Jake Loveland recovered a botched punt at the Downey 1. Several plays later, Robles scored from three yards out to give the Bulldogs their first lead of the game.

Each team scored once in the fourth quarter.

Robles capped a nine-play, 80-yard drive with an 18-yard TD run around the left end. Robles broke several tackles, managed to stay inbounds near the Downey sideline and dove into the end zone.

The Knights got within two points on Brad Bispo's 16-yard TD reception from Chad Draper.

Borges and Taleni Uti sealed the win with a stellar play on defense.

Draper completed a 20-yard screen pass to Gonzalez, who fumbled the ball as he was tackled by a host of Bulldogs. Borges forced the fumble and Uti recovered it at the 50-yard line with 1:26 remaining.

The Knights led 17-7 at the break as it outgained the Bulldogs 238-79.

"I don't think they expected much of a game from us in the second half," said Ceres defensive coordinator Brett Johnson. "We stunned them."

Added Robles: "We knew we could come back because we did it against Modesto."

Downey gained 238 yards of offense in the first half, including 199 rushing on 25 carries.

The Knights scored on their second possession in the first quarter.

Brandon Yost scored on a 41-yard run and Royal Addis converted the point-after kick to give Downey a 7-0 lead.

At the beginning of the second quarter, Addis intercepted Goblirsch's errant pass at the Ceres 38. Five plays later, the Knights extended their lead to 14-0 on Gonzalez's 10-yard run and Addis' PAT.

Ceres scored on its ensuing possession.

Robles caught a screen pass from Goblirsch and raced 59 yards into the end zone. Brandon Gresham converted the PAT.

Addis booted a 32-yard field goal as time expired in the first half.

Ceres' defense allowed 362 yards of offense in the game.

Borges, Malagon, Uti and Ryan Leazer each had 11 tackles.

Borges and Zack Wiedenbeck both had one interception.

Nick Eudy had eight tackles and one sack.

Luangchai also registered eight tackles.

Ceres High's coaching staff and players watched a private screening of "Friday Night Lights" at Brenden Theatres Thursday morning.

"We spent a good four hours together today," Robles said. - By DALE BUTLER / Staff Reporter of The Ceres (Calif.) Courier