CLOVIS -- Eli Gutierrez came into the season determined to use his arm to provide balance to the Merced High offense.
He was true to his word on Friday evening. Gutierrez threw three touchdowns to go along with one score on the ground to lead the Bears to a 27-14 win over Clovis West at Buchanan High's Veterans Stadium.
The win snapped a string of three straight season-opening losses by the Bears (1-0).
"It feels amazing. We're 1-0 and we have a lot more confidence than last year," Gutierrez said. "It feels great to help my team out."
The biggest difference for the Merced quarterback was the absence of big mistakes. He didn't turn the ball over and managed the game with his ability to run and throw.
He led the team with 128 yards rushing on 22 carries, including a 16-yard touchdown run that gave Merced a 27-14 lead with 7 minutes left in the game. He also completed 7 of 15 passes for 156 yards.
"Tonight you saw the difference from a year ago," Merced coach Rob Schiedt said. "Last year when he had an opportunity to make mistakes, he made them. Tonight, he made great reads and threw the ball great."
Gutierrez tossed touchdown passes to Travante Richard and David Keys to give Merced a 13-7 lead at the half. He then led Merced on a 97-yard drive to open the second half; the possession ended with a 28-yard scoring strike to Richard to make it 20-7.
"Every time I scrambled they thought I was going to run," Gutierrez said, "that's when I would pull up and throw."
The Bears also got big run from senior Errol Dennis, who finished with 112 yards on 12 carries.
Clovis West hit the Bears with a couple big runs to stay in the game.
Taylor Bustamonte broke free for a 78-yard TD dash in the first quarter. Teammate Khalil Montgomery added a 40-yard run to cut the lead to 20-14 midway through the third quarter.
The Bears' defense buckled down, forcing two turnovers to help set the stage for Gutierrez's last act -- his 16-yard scramble.
Gutierrez wouldn't be denied, wiggling free from a crowd at the line of scrimmage for the decisive score.
Merced (1-0) turns its attention to Downey High next Friday. The game will be played at Merced High -- the first varsity football game to be held on campus in school history.
Buhach Colony 28,
San Ramon Valley 24
SAN RAMON -- Leon Miles scored on a 20-yard run late in the fourth quarter to lift the Thunder to a thrilling victory over one of the state's top teams.
Buhach took advantage of three turnovers in the first half to build a 21-0 lead. Stefon Gold and Tyler Dew highlighted the early blitz with scoring runs.
San Ramon Valley -- ranked in CalHiSports' Top 25 to begin the season -- answered back with 24 unanswered points to take a three-point lead, but Miles made sure it was short-lived.
LIVINGSTON -- Breck Smith had touchdown runs of 11 and 77 yards and the Yellowjackets forced five turnovers in this regional showdown.