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Hilmar football pulls off win after second half surge
Hilmar Highs Breck Smith breaks away for a long run during Fridays CIF SJS D-IV first round 31-14 win over Liberty Ranch. Smith finished with 38 yards on seven carries. - photo by EDDIE RUIZ / The Journal

Hilmar High’s undefeated football season has been a product of complimentary play from its offense and defense, but on Friday, in the first round of the Division IV CIF Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs, it was the Yellowjacket defense that carried the team past Liberty Ranch High and onto the second round.

Hilmar’s offense was uncharacteristic in the first half, as they were held to only 70 yards while quarterback Jonathan O’Brien was under constant pressure, being sacked a total of five times for 31 yards.

The defense was impenetrable in the fourth quarter as a surge that included three interceptions lifted the ‘Jackets over the Hawks in what ended in a 31-14 win.

“Our defense has been the key to our season and they just picked it up when they had to,” Hilmar head coach Frank Marques said. “It’s really the defense's game; this goes to them they played a great second half."

The ‘Jackets entered the half trailing, 14-7, for the first time this season, but defensive player of the game David Bisby said that halftime adjustments were made and that things were going to go differently —  he wasn’t wrong.

In fact, Hilmar’s defense led by Joseph Bello and Bisby, managed to completely shut down the Hawks in the second, allowing only 50 yards, along with five key turnovers that would eventually lead to the victory.

“We have done it before and we can do it again,” Bisby said. “We are going to swarm and see if they can handle it. We have a lot of great players; everyone swarms the ball.”

The game changing play was Bisby’s 49-yard interception return for a touchdown that put his team up by 10 points with just over six minutes left in regulation.

Bisby also became recipient of the game ball; the first time that coach Marques has bestowed the honor in 11 years.

“I was taking it to the house and there was nothing stopping me,” Bisby said about his pick-six. “It also feels really good to receive the game ball, especially because coach hasn’t done it in over a decade, receiving it from that man is real special.”

The final score of the game came after Trent Orosco gutted a two-yard touchdown run with 3:30 left to put his team up 31-14.

Liberty Ranch’s next play on offense became their last after Jacob Smith intercepted a pass from quarterback William Ranse Gale to seal the victory.

Hilmar totaled 249 yards, 146 on the ground led by Orosco, who tallied 75 yards on 10 carries. O’Brien was 9-for-13 for 103 yards and a touchdown. Robinson had 6 catches for 78 yards, including the team's first TD of the game.

Hilmar’s defense forced Liberty Ranch to turn the ball over seven times in the game — five interceptions and two fumbles. The 'Jackets defense held the Hawks  to only 208 total yards and shut them down in the second, allowing only three first downs.

“They changed plays during game and we had to counter with that,” Bisby said about the second half defensive performance. “We made a call and they could not attack anymore and that changed things.”

Hilmar will host their Trans Valley League rival Escalon at 7 p.m. next Friday.