The Hilmar High varsity football team continued an undefeated start to the season with something they do best on Saturday evening: a victory over a much larger school. Meanwhile, Turlock High’s first win of the season was just out of reach on Friday while Denair High was missing players due to COVID exposure once again.
The Hilmar ‘Jackets steamrolled Modesto High 40-6 from their home stadium, improving to 3-0 on the year. Their first two victories came against Patterson and Los Banos high schools, which boast enrollment numbers of 1,700 and 1,400, respectively. With just over 700 students on campus, Hilmar came into their latest matchup with Modesto, where over 2,500 kids go to school, knowing they could stack up to the competition.
“We’re kind of like that little guy who doesn’t know he’s little,” Hilmar head coach Frank Marques said. “We just play to the level of whoever we’re playing against with the expectation that we’re going to win. We don’t really notice the size of the school — it doesn’t make a difference who it is.”
Hilmar put on a defensive show Saturday, holding the Panthers to just one score late in the game when the first string had already been pulled. The defensive line did an outstanding job stifling Modesto’s run game, Marques said, while the secondary kept passing to a minimum and collected two interceptions on the night. The offense was led by the dual rushing attack of running backs Broc Perry and Luis Vargas.
Kicker Andre Alves also contributed greatly, repeatedly giving the ‘Jackets defense an advantage by keeping the Panthers on the opposite end of the field.
“We were clicking on all cylinders,” Marques said.
Turlock traveled to Bullard High in Fresno on Friday, where they fell to the Knights 14-12 in a showdown that could have been anyone’s game; they are now 0-3 on the season.
The Bulldogs pulled ahead with a 6-0 lead in the second quarter thanks to a one-yard run by running back JT Foreman followed by a missed PAT. Bullard made it 6-6 one minute later via a 74-yard touchdown pass and a missed kick of their own, but Turlock went into the locker room at halftime leading 12-6 after a 28-yard touchdown from quarterback Cole Gilbert to wide receiver Logan Hart and a missed two-point conversion attempt.
The Knights pulled ahead 14-12 in the fourth quarter on a five-yard touchdown pass and two-point conversion. Turlock was unable to seal the victory in the remaining four minutes, head coach James Peterson said.
“I feel like we’ve been improving every week, and that was the goal,” he said. “We’ve played with a tough strength of schedule, and now we have to actually win a game. Everybody's feeling the pressure to rise to the occasion.”
In Denair, the Coyotes welcomed Franklin High to their home field and put up a fight against the Stockton school before ultimately losing 34-28. The team has experienced setback after setback, with COVID exposures impacting their first game and wildfire smoke cancelling their second.
This week, Denair was missing players once again due to quarantine requirements for students exposed to COVID at school and those who were returning from quarantine were playing in their first game of the year.
“We made a lot of ‘first game’ mistakes,” Denair head coach Anthony Armas said. “When we had that abbreviated season in the spring, we had no COVID issues...now it’s like every week, almost every day.”
Armas said he didn’t find out that players would have to miss the game until the day before, and is unsure if he’ll have his whole squad this week.
“We’re going to play the hand we’re dealt and just do what we can do,” Armas said.
Denair will travel to San Francisco this Saturday to take on Washington High at 4 p.m. On Friday, Turlock will play against Manteca High at 7 p.m. from Joe Debely Stadium and Hilmar will play at home against Sonora High at 7 p.m.