Six days after his uneven varsity debut against Palma of Salinas, Caden Bailey looked every bit the part of a varsity quarterback Friday night against Livingston.
Bailey ran for two touchdowns and threw for another as the Yellowjackets (2-3) recorded a thoroughly convincing 35-0 win in the Trans-Valley League opener for both schools.
Bailey, who took over for the injured Hudson Azevedo after the senior suffered a nearly complete tear off the AC joint in his right throwing shoulder, made his first varsity start last Saturday in a 7-6 setback to Palma.
The 5-9, 170-pound sophomore threw three interceptions in the first half of that loss.
“The speed of the game was just different for him,” said Hilmar head coach Frank Marques. “Palma is really fast and they have 11 kids on the field who are super athletic. The TVL just doesn’t have those kind of athletes.
“But after that first half last week, he was a different player.”
Bailey played a mistake-free second half against Palma, and that carried over into a flawless first half against the Wolves.
“I was able to get those first-game jitters out of the way,” said Bailey. “Against Palma, I was more stressed.”
There was little to stress over Friday.
After a Livingston turnover gave Hilmar the ball on the Wolves’ 18 with 7:48 to play in the first quarter, Luis Vargas picked up 7 on first down and then scored from 11 yards out on second down. Spencer Azevedo’s PAT made it 7-0.
Livingston fumbled it away on its next possession and Vargas again carried the ball on the first two plays, picking up 3 yards, then 16 more. Bailey called his own number next and raced in from the 14. Azevedo’s kick made it 14-0.
“(Caden) seemed a little hesitant in practice last week, but he improved a lot this week,” said senior offensive lineman Landon Gomes. “We just had to stick with him and help him out in practice. I think this week, he was able to settle in a little more.”
The Wolves punted from their own 18 on their next possession and Hilmar took over on the LHS 35. On the first play, Bailey hit Derek Taylor in the flat and the 6-5, 215-pound receiver did the rest, shunning tacklers on his way to the end zone to make it 20-0 late in the first quarter.
Azevedo added the PAT to make it 21-0.
In the second quarter, Vargas scored on a 2-yard run and Bailey showed off his speed by sweeping around the left end, racing up the visitors’ sideline virtually untouched into the end zone.
“It’s tough to lose Huddy,” said Bailey. “But I’m glad the coaches saw in me what they saw. I think I’m ready.”
Bailey and the Yellowjackets are about to find out. Up next is a date with Ripon, which was the TVL co-champion with Hilmar and Escalon in 2019, not to mention the Division 4-AA state champion. The Indians (3-2) defeated Modesto Christian 54-19 on Friday.
On Sept. 30, the ’Jackets take on Escalon, the state’s 4-A champ in 2019. The Cougars (3-2) entered Friday night as the top-ranked Division V team in the Sac-Joaquin Section, but were upset by Hughson 29-14.
Following the Escalon game, Hilmar gets a bye before taking on the suddenly dangerous Huskies of Hughson on Oct. 14.
Hilmar won the junior varsity game 38-14, running its winning streak to 39 games.