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Hilmar falls to Sonora in preleague matchup
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Pursued by several Wildcats, Logan Cardosa dashes down the field during Hilmar's home opener (SAMANTHA SCHMIDT/The Journal).

Sonora High scored 22 unanswered points in the third quarter to break open a close game and pull away from Hilmar for a 32-9 non-league victory Friday night at McSweeney Field.

This year’s matchup marked the 10th consecutive year that Hilmar and Sonora have met in the preseason (there was no game in the 2020 COVID season), with an additional meeting in the 2021 playoffs. With Friday’s victory, the Wildcats (2-1) took a 6-4 lead in the recent series.

In a year’s time, when the Sac-Joaquin Section’s realignment plan goes into effect, this will be a Trans-Valley League encounter. 

For now, it serves as a way for the Yellowjackets (1-2) to prepare for the rugged TVL season, which starts for them Sept. 29 at home against Livingston.

“We’ve just got to make sure that we rebound against Atwater next week,” said Hilmar head coach Frank Marques. “Atwater’s a good team. We don’t have the luxury of playing a weak opponent to get well.”

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Hilmar's Dakota Maynard chases down Sonora's Declan Gardiner (SAMANTHA SCHMIDT/The Journal).

Hilmar’s defense kept the game close in the first half as Sonora held a 7-3 lead at the break. 

But after Sonora forced Hilmar to go three-and-out on the first possession of the second half, Cash Byington busted free for a 71-yard score on second-and-8. Bryce Nicolson ran in for a two-point conversion to make it 15-3.

The Yellowjackets fumbled the ensuing kickoff, giving the Wildcats possession on Hilmar’s 19. Quarterback Eli Ingalls made the most of the gift, hitting Brody Speer in the end zone on first down. Emanual Garibay’s PAT made it 22-3.

Again, Sonora forced a three-and-out, then capped a five-play, 56-yard drive on Declan Gardiner’s 10-yard burst into the end zone.

“We were playing bad in the first half and they were playing really well,” said Sonora head coach Bryan Craig. “We capitalized on a couple mistakes and were able to flip the momentum.”

Hilmar finally found the end zone with 6:57 remaining in the fourth quarter when junior quarterback Caden Bailey scored on a 9-yard TD run.

The Wildcats, coming off a 43-0 victory over TVL member Ripon last week, will travel to Atwater to face Buhach Colony next week.

The junior varsity game ended in a 34-34 tie.