FRONT ROW PREPS
Special to the Journal
Hilmar’s Bradley Morris had never taken a meaningful snap in a varsity football game until Friday night.
The senior signal caller was pressed into duty when sophomore Caden Bailey — who took over for the injured Hudson Azevedo three weeks ago — left the game with an apparent concussion.
Despite his inexperience, Morris hit Derek Taylor for an 8-yard TD pass and lifted the Yellowjackets to a 21-20 win over Escalon in a Trans-Valley League showdown Friday night at McSweeney Field.
“That was a play of a lifetime,” said Hilmar coach Frank Marques. “He’s never taken live reps that mattered. He threw a dart.”
With Hilmar trailing 20-14, Bailey went out of the game early in the fourth quarter after running for a 20-yard gain
Enter Morris, the holder for extra-points and the scout team quarterback.
On third-and-goal from the 8, Morris hit Taylor to tie it at 20, then Spencer Azevedo’s PAT put the ’Jackets ahead.
“First time I’ve been thrown into a situation — win or go home,” said Morris. “I heard my number called and I thought I had to go out and do something. I looked to Derek’s side. (The corner) was playing off. I thought, ‘Well, this is destined.’”
Escalon’s Owen Nash was playing off just enough for Taylor and Morris to recognize it.
“Brad saw the off coverage and he made a big play,” said Taylor, a 6-5, 215-pound senior drawing looks from several Division I colleges. “This means everything to us."
It should. With the win Hilmar improves to 4-3 overall and 3-0 in the rugged TVL, while Escalon, the reigning TVL and Sac-Joaquin Section Division V champion, drops to 3-3, 0-2.
It’s Hilmar’s first win over the Cougars since 2018, when the Yellowjackets went on to win the state title. Escalon defeated Hilmar in Sac-Joaquin Section finals in 2019 and 2021.
"I was not liking the trend,” said Marques. “Every time we play Escalon it has been tough. It’s nice to get one back.”
The victory sets up a showdown on the road against Hughson Oct. 14. The Huskies, who beat Escalon 29-14, are 6-1 overall and 3-0 in the TVL.
“That’s what happens when you can’t make plays on special teams,” said Escalon coach Andrew Beam, whose team missed two field goals, one blocked by Taylor, and a PAT. “You can’t be chasing points. It’s been a problem all year. It bit us once again tonight.”
Hilmar’s Luis Vargas rushed for 156 yards on 19 carries, while Bailey totaled 115 yards on 12 attempts before leaving the game.
Nash caught nine passes for 142 yards, but Hilmar’s defense allowed running back Ryker Peters just 56 rushing yards.
The Yellowjackets’ offense, meanwhile, completed just three passes on the night.