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Bulldogs suffer heartbreaking loss
Ceres High's varsity football team came close to securing its first victory last Friday.

Visiting East Union rallied from a 14-point, first-half deficit to beat the Bulldogs 35-27 in Valley Oak League play.

"It hurts," Ceres senior receiver Aaron Salazar said. "There's no other way to describe it. I think we got a little complacent. The coaches put us in a position to win. But we didn't execute when it mattered the most. We've never been in that position before."

Added Lancers coach Mike James: "That's why God made games four quarters."

Eighth-place Ceres dropped to 0-6, while sixth-place East Union improved to 2-4.

Bulldogs quarterback Zack Atchison completed 15 of 35 passes for 187 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions. He also scored on a 7-yard run.

Salazar caught five passes for 99 yards and a score.

Brandon Avila and Devin Eudy each had one receiving TD.

Martino Bertolotti made six catches for 77 yards.

"I was really impressed with their ability to throw the ball," James said. "Our scouting report was wrong."

East Union signal-caller Teddy Anderson completed 12 of 20 passes for 228 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions. He also scored on a 54-yard run.

Eugene Alston caught six passes for 150 yards and two touchdowns.

Abdiel Martinez-Ramos ran for 73 yards on 14 carries.

Bertolotti had two interceptions on defense for Ceres. Marcus Hilgen picked off one pass. Michael Staggs and Justin Hidahl each added one sack. Freshman middle linebacker Hadon Lopez tallied a game-high 14 tackles in his return to the lineup. He missed the previous five games with a fractured right pinkie. Lopez put off surgery until the end of the season.

East Union's defense stopped the Bulldogs on a potential, game-tying drive that began with 4:27 to play on Ceres' 20-yard line. Ed Trigg sealed the contest when he intercepted a pass at the Lancers' 2-yard line with 33 seconds remaining.

"It was a crazy game," Anderson said.

Down 21-7 at the break, East Union erupted for 28 second-half points. Ceres managed to score just once in the final 24 minutes.

The Lancers tied the game at 21-all in the third quarter. Anderson tossed TD passes of 26 and 64 yards to Alston in the span of eight minutes.

Atchison's 7-yard touchdown run put the Bulldogs ahead 27-21 early in the fourth quarter. Ceres missed the extra point, which fell short from 30-plus yards following back-to-back penalties.

East Union grabbed its first lead of the contest two minutes later on Anderson's jaw-dropping rushing TD. Teddy broke loose down the visitor's sideline, juked a defender with a spin move and sprinted into the end zone.

Lancers junior linebacker Brandon Roberts stunned Ceres' crowd with a 5-yard interception return touchdown at the 4:28 mark.

"I was confident we'd come back," Anderson said. "I knew my team wasn't going to give up. We wanted this win more than anything in the world."

"I thought we had it," Atchison said.

The Bulldogs opened the game with a trick play when Hilgen completed a 55-yard option pass to Salazar. Ceres scored three plays later on Atchison's 5-yard strike to Avila.

"It was a great call and they caught us," James said.

The Bulldogs increased their lead to 14-0 after Hilgen picked off an Anderson pass at the Ceres 46. Atchison hooked up with Salazar for a 12-yard score.

In the second quarter, Anderson engineered a nine-play, 96-yard scoring drive capped by an 11-yard strike to Dakota Anderson.

Eudy hauled in a 7-yard touchdown pass from Atchison with 22 seconds remaining. The five-play, 75-yard drive started at the Ceres 25.

"We totally underestimated them in the first half," Anderson said. "We thought it was going to be a cakewalk."