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Hilmar earns first TVL win
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RIPON — Hilmar High’s grand return to the Trans Valley League wasn’t so grand.Not to start with, anyway.The defense jumped offsides on the game’s first play from scrimmage, and on the next one it let Ripon’s Louie Mejia squirt through the middle for an uncontested 85-yard touchdown run.The mistakes continued to pile on for the injury-ravaged Yellowjackets, but thanks to a big stop in the red zone followed by an impressive 8-minute, 1-second drive in the fourth quarter they were able to gut out a hard-earned 21-14 victory at Stouffer Field.“We’ve had a lot of personnel changes because of all the injuries, so we’re just trying to battle through that,” Hilmar coach Frank Marques said. “The big thing tonight for us was just to get the win. “We were trying to survive this one, because Ripon’s a very good team. The kids played tough and battled for all four quarters.”And survive the Yellowjackets (1-0, 3-2 overall) did, despite three turnovers — two in the red zone — and 12 penalties that cost them 102 yards.With quarterback Andrew Olsen (wrist) done for the year and feature running back Isaac Diaz (ankle), who doubles as the team’s back-up QB, out for at least two more weeks, Hilmar turned the offense over to third-stringer Jonathan O’Brien.Diaz’s jersey did make an appearance. Nate Azevedo (12 rushes, 48 yards) got blood on his No. 5 jersey late in the first half and wore Diaz’s No. 20 for the remainder of the game.The pressure was lifted from O’Brien (3-for-6 54 yards, TD) throughout because the running game was so effective. O’Brien’s 8-yard strike to tight end Trent Goiburn with 3:38 left in the third was the deciding touchdown.Zack Giuliano bulldozed his way to 103 yards and a touchdown scamper on 26 carries, while Garrett Jericoff ran it 21 times for 93 yards and a score. Giuliano keyed Hilmar’s big fourth quarter from both sides from scrimmage.On the opening play of the fourth, Hilmar threatened to double its 21-14 lead on fourth down from the Ripon 2, but O’Brien fumbled as he tried to plunge his way into the end zone. The Indians recovered it in the end zone to set up their final drive on the 20.Quarterback Alex Gustin (6-for-17, 52 yards, TD; 14 rushes, 39 yards) engineered Ripon’s best series in the contest, though Ryan Durrer helped keep it alive with an 11-yard pass to Jake McCreath on a fake punt.The Indians (0-1, 2-3) got it as deep as the Ripon 9, but Gustin’s errant pitch to Durrer on third-and-3 resulted in a fourth-and-long on the 16. Hilmar shut it down on the next play, when Giuliano chased Gustin out of the pocket and caught him from behind for a quarterback sack and the turnover on downs.“It was amazing,” Giuliano said. “We just dug deep and pushed hard and made sure that the score on the scoreboard stays at 21 to 14.”The drive of drives came next.Hilmar hammered its way into Ripon territory, and on the 15th play — third-and-4 on the 14 — Giuliano iced it with a 4-yard jaunt. O’Brien kneeled it twice to end the game.“The old-fashioned smash-mouth football worked out well for us tonight,” Marques said. “Four yards and a cloud of dust — Hilmar has made a tradition out of that for a lot of years.”Hilmar outgained Ripon 313-198 yards. Take away Mejia’s 85-yard touchdown run, and Ripon has just 103. Cornerback Steve Soares intercepted a pass for Hilmar.“I tip my hat to Hilmar, they’re dinged up and they’re missing a lot of weapons and they put it together,” Ripon coach Chris Johnson said. “They came out here and just kicked our butts.”