TURLOCK — Eli Gutierrez wasn't about to allow the game to come down to his boot.
With kicker Daniel Silva sidelined with a foot injury, and replacement Brendan Yaley out of Friday night's game early with a back injury, the kicking duties fell to Gutierrez.
He made the only extra point he attempted, but no one wanted to see a Central California Conference classic to come down to a chance kick.
Gutierrez and receiver Bradley Adamson made sure it was a non issue.
The pair hooked up on a pass to the left flat with 3 minutes and 32 seconds to play. Adamson did the rest, tip-toeing along the sideline and diving the last five yards for the pylon to secure a 19-14 road victory over Turlock.
"It' nice to have a guy like Bradley that you can go to when you need a play," said Gutierrez, who finished with 149 yards of total offense and two touchdown passes. "Especially when they keep giving him single coverage. He doesn't need a whole lot of space. I just need to put it there and he'll go get it."
Adamson's score was Merced's first and only lead on a night its high-octane offense struggled to get in gear.
The Bulldogs and quarterback Sean Downs, on the other hand, clicked from the beginning. Downs (177 rushing yards and 130 passing) marched Turlock (0-1 CCC, 3-3) back down the field, pushing the ball inside the Merced 10-yard line with under a minute to play.
But despite yielding almost 400 yards of total offense in the game, the Bear defense -- as it had all night -- found a way to turn the Bulldogs away when it mattered most.
On a 3rd-and-6 play, Downs rolled right and then threw back into the middle of the field. Merced's Keith Bolden intercepted the pass to secure the victory.
"I guess the one good thing in all this, was our defense played really well," Merced coach Rob Scheidt said. "It was a kind of bend but don't break situation, which we aided with some bad penalties. But we made plays when we had to."
The Merced (1-0 CCC, 4-2) offense struggled in the first half.
It forced the Merced defense to keep them in it.
The scoring picked up right away in the second half, with Downs capping a 68-yard drive with a 1-yard TD run.
Merced answered right away, with Gutierrez finding Adamson in the corner of the end zone for a 20-yard leaping catch to make it 7-7.
Downs had the Bulldogs back on top two plays later, turning an option run into a 59-yard score.
Errol Dennis' 7-yard touchdown run cut the Turlock lead to 14-13 with 9:15 left.
The Bears marched 67 yards on their final drive with Adamson coming up with a big 45-yard catch. Two players later he caught the winning 12-yard touchdown.
"I think the difference in the second half was we started playing like a team and not individuals," Gutierrez said. "The first half was as ugly as if could be, but we got it done when we needed to."