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Hilmar completes comeback to kickoff TVL play
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Hilmar running back Luis Vargas breaks a tackle during his 54-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter of Friday’s game (Photo by AnnaMarie Silveira).

The Hilmar High varsity football team showed grit on the gridiron Friday night with their come-from-behind win against Livingston High, which saw late-game theatrics propel the Yellowjackets over the Wolves 28-24 during their first Trans Valley League game.

“They came out here to play,” Hilmar head coach Frank Marques said of Livingston, who was looking for its first win against the ‘Jackets since 1990. “We were lucky to get out of here with a win. We have to give them a lot of credit for coming out and giving us everything we could handle.”

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Wide receiver Derek Taylor catches a game-winning, 88-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Cameron Moak during Hilmar’s 28-24 victory over Livingston on Friday night (Photo by AnnaMarie Silveira).

Things didn’t start off on a good note for Hilmar, who had fallen behind 17-0 by the second quarter. Livingston came out firing with an 11-play touchdown drive on their first possession, then two consecutive muffed punts by the ‘Jackets gave the Wolves a chance to score twice more — first with a 26-yard field goal and then again with a 43-yard touchdown run from quarterback Rocklin Baptista.

The ‘Jackets got on the board with three minutes left in the second quarter thanks to a 15-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Cameron Moak to wide receiver Derek Taylor, then Hilmar’s Cannon Irelan picked off a pass by Baptista to give his team possession again. Irelan then immediately impressed on offense to close out the first half, catching a 75-yard touchdown pass from Moak to put Hilmar within three points of Livingston, 17-14.

“There were just so many big plays,” Marques said of his team’s fighting spirit.

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Linebacker Blake Westmoreland makes a stop for Hilmar during their win on Friday (Photo by AnnaMarie Silveira).

After a scoreless third quarter, the game came down to the wire in the fourth. A 34-yard touchdown by Livingston running back Carlos Baez started the fourth quarter and put the Wolves up 24-14. After an interception thrown by Moak, Livingston got the ball back and completed a fake punt on fourth down only to be thwarted by a fumble, which was recovered by Hilmar’s Landon Gomes.

On the very next play, a 54-yard touchdown by ‘Jacket running back Luis Vargas brought Hilmar within striking range, 24-21, with seven minutes left to play. With Livingston in the red zone on their next possession, the Hilmar defense stepped up and forced a turnover on downs to put the ball back in Moak’s hands — and that was all they needed to remain undefeated on the season.

On fourth-and-5 from their own 12-yard line, Moak sailed an 88-yard Hail Mary pass which landed in the hands of Taylor who brought it in for the game-winning score. Moak finished the night 7 of 11 passing with 228 yards and three touchdowns. Vargas led the Hilmar offense with 162 all-purpose yards and a touchdown.

Hilmar’s defense allowed 411 total offensive yards by the Wolves, while the ‘Jacket offense put up 409.

“It was a hell of a high school football game,” Marques said. “It’s one of those games where you hate to see somebody lose because you know the kids just played their hearts out.”

Hilmar is now 5-0 overall and 1-0 in TVL play. Next week they’ll travel to Ripon High School where they’ll play at 7 p.m. Friday. Yellowjacket fans can catch all the action in next week’s season premiere of The Blitz.