Hilmar High sent the fans home happy on homecoming night with a thrilling 28-21 come from behind victory against Sonora. The Yellowjackets were able to rely on a lockdown second half defense to secure the win.
Hilmar was led by running back Luis Vargas with 105 all-purpose yards and wide receiver Derek Taylor with 134 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Head coach Frank Marques said he has three running backs that can take over games and Friday was Vargas’ night.
“I think it’s neat we have three guys that could take over the game. Vargas took over today and he had a really good game,” he said.
Missed opportunities on offense in the first half and not being able to stop the Wildcats on third down were uncharacteristic for the Yellowjackets as they came into the game undefeated. They were able to settle down at the half and get back to playing the type of football they’re used to playing.
“We weren’t playing Hilmar football in the first half. Things were getting chippy out there and I told them to look inside themselves and basically calm down and play within themselves,” said Marques.
Sonora put up the only points in the first quarter with a 49-yard touchdown run on their second possession. The second quarter looked to be a defensive battle until Hilmar muffed a punt which led to a nine-yard touchdown pass by Sonora to make it 14-0.
The Yellowjackets answered right back with a touchdown on their next drive. Running back Blake Westmoreland capped off 12 play drive with a 20-yard run. With just over a minute left in the first half Hilmar thought they tied the game with a 20-yard touchdown catch by Derek Taylor, but a holding penalty negated the score.
The Yellowjackets seem to come back from the half with a rejuvenated energy as they scored a touchdown on their first possession courtesy of a 66-yard pass from Quarterback Cameron Moak to Taylor to even the game at 14.
Hilmar fumbled the ball on their next possession, but Sonora wasn’t able to capitalize. Marques credited his defense for being more aggressive in the second half. Moak and Taylor connected on their second touchdown of the night early in the fourth quarter to take a 21-14 lead.
The Wildcats were forced to punt on the next possession and Cannon Irelan took it back for a touchdown to give the Yellowjackets a commanding 28-14 lead. Sonora was able to score a late touchdown with nine seconds left thanks to multiple Hilmar penalties. That made it 28-21, but they weren’t able to recover the onside kick and the Yellowjackets celebrated staying undefeated at 4-0.
Sonora was down eight players because of COVID protocol and Marques appreciated that they still came and played the game.
“They could have easily called and cancelled the game, but they knew it was our homecoming. I have a ton of respect for Sonora and their coaching staff for coming down shorthanded,” he said.
Next Friday, the Yellowjackets will try to stay undefeated as they host Livingston in their first league game at 7 p.m.