There's nothing like a long-standing rivalry on the gridiron.
Hilmar and Escalon football teams have been battling for years, but no contest was more memorable than Friday night’s game where the Yellowjackets visited Escalon in a brutal Trans Valley League matchup that saw a combined 75 points scored for the night.
Escalon’s legendary head coach Mark Loueiro picked up his 262nd victory, the most in section history, as the Cougars bested the ‘Jackets, 41-34, in one of the most exciting bouts between the two.
“Right now, this was the biggest game I have been in and I will enjoy it,” Loueiro said. “Plus, it is also a privilege to win this against Hilmar, a class-act ball club. It means more when you beat someone who is a quality program like Hilmar and it means a lot more and I feel proud of that tonight.”
“Sometimes you look to build your team and the fact that we only have two wins and these guys come out and never give up and play as hard as they did, it says a lot about our character,” Hilmar head coach Frank Marques said.
Hilmar played arguably one of the best games of the season as they were able to contain the Cougar offense that had been averaging over 34 points per game, to only 13 first half points while allowing only 125 total yards.
The ‘Jackets, on the other hand, struggled with the running game coming in and were held to 104 first half yards and only seven points, which they scored on their first possession, after an 11-yard drive that ended with a Jonathan O’Brien one-yard run up the gut.
“We played well tonight and inspired against a really tough Escalon team,” O’Brien said. “I feel like, honestly, we have gotten better each week, the TVL is tough and every game is up for grabs. I am proud of how we played but [we] need to keep improving and getting better.”
Things got really interesting in the second half for both sides, but it was Escalon’s running game that was the highlight of the night.
Hunter Calton and Wesley Dick combined for 297 of Escalon’s 305 rushing yards for the night as each had multiple rushes of over 20 yards or more.
Dick amassed 124 yards on 23 carries, while Calton finished with 173 yards on 13 carries.
“I am sure the record will mean more to me when I step off this field and sit back and relax, but looking at it right now it has been many years of hard work,” Loueiro said. “Just tremendous support from the community, the school and great players that I have coached and it makes coaching easier. That was the formula because of it.”
Escalon scored on the opening drive, which was highlighted by Calton’s 58-yard run on a counter, which set the Cougars up at Hilmar’s 15-yard-line.
Calton capped off the drive with a one-yard run and the Cougars took a 20-7 lead.
Alex Chavez of Hilmar went on a run and ended the Hilmar drive with a four-yard touchdown catch after grabbing three of his five catches for the night on that drive alone, giving the ‘Jackets a 20-14 score.
“[Alex] Chavez had a huge night catching everything in traffic tonight and did great for us as a junior,” Marques said of his newcomer.
Escalon continued to pound the ball on the ground and they scored on back-to-back drives to take the 34-14 lead by the start of the fourth quarter.
However, Hilmar was not done yet as they scored two unanswered touchdowns in under three minutes.
Noah Batista carried the ball three times on the next drive and tallied 54 yards, which was capped off by a five-yard touchdown run that cut the lead to 13 with 8:41 left in the game.
After a four-play drive on their next possession, Hilmar’s Chavez grabbed a 13-yard touchdown pass from O’Brien to make the score 34-27.
Escalon’s Calton then plunged up the middle with a 41-yard-touchdown run, which seemed to put the nail in the coffin, taking a 41-27 lead.
Hudson Harris of Hilmar had another thing in mind on the kick return, though, after taking the return to the house on a 90-yard return which made the score 41-34.
An onside kick was set, but the ball sailed out of bounds with under two minutes and Escalon was able to run down the clock with their efficient run game.
“There are seasons where we don’t worry about the records and wins but more about building the character of the team and tonight we built a lot of character,” Marques said. “Our line played well and defense stepped it up big time today as well."
Hilmar falls to a 0-2 TVL record and Escalon jumps to an early 2-0 record.
Hilmar’s next game will come against Hughson, with the game scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday.