With the contest out of reach, Ceres High varsity boys water polo head coach Tracy Bull emptied his bench in the final period of Saturday's 24-12 loss to Dixon in the opening round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-II playoffs at Whitney High School.
Senior Stefan Perry, and freshmen Xavier Camarillo, Logan Kier, Caleb Bishop, Roman Acosta and Tristan Scott all received playing time.
"There's no guarantee we'll be back the next couple of years," Bull said. "It was really important to get those kids into the game."
Dixon (29-4, 10-0) placed first in the Solano County Athletic Conference this year.
Ceres High (7-7, 6-2) finished second in the Western Athletic Conference.
"That's the best team we've played all season," Bull said. "They spread the pool well. They were patient with their offense. They were fast. It seemed like we played a man down all day. We're not used to playing against that type of speed. It's hard to prepare for that if you don't see it all season. The level of competition in Sacramento is better."
Terry Brogdon collected a team-high six goals during his final game with the Bulldogs. Brogdon totaled 110 goals, including 56 this season, in three years.
"It was a great way to end his career," Bull said. "He's one of the best players I've ever coached."
Junior Zachary Jones had three goals, four assists and four steals. The reigning WAC MVP was slowed by back spasms. He tweaked his back while being hounded by Dixon defenders in the second period.
Ethan Campbell, Timothy Campbell and Bobby Baranski all contributed one goal.
Bulldog goalkeeper Sean Carr accumulated 11 blocks.
Timothy Campbell, a key defender, played sparingly. He had the stomach flu.
"The game was a lot closer than the final score indicates," Bull said. "We definitely earned their respect. We didn't embarrass ourselves. We actually played really well."
Ceres High trailed 3-0 early and 8-3 at the end of the first quarter.
Dixon led 18-12 at the end of the third period. The Rams outscored the Bulldogs 6-0 in the final seven minutes.
"It was an uphill battle," Bull said.
The Bulldogs participated in the playoff for the third time in four years this season.
Ceres High failed to defend its WAC title.
Terry, Ethan and Stefan will be lost to graduation. The Bulldogs return five of seven starters in 2014, including Zachary, Sean, Timothy, Bobby and Erik Weststeyn. "Overall, we had a great time," Bull said. "We need to develop our JV program. That's the only way we're going to get better."