The Hilmar High varsity football team is headed to the Division-V Sac-Joaquin Section Championship game next weekend after their semifinal rout of Casa Roble High Friday night, which saw the Yellowjackets dominate on both sides of the ball to win 41-8.
“That was a shocker. It was a surprise, but the kids just played a really sound game,” Hilmar head coach Frank Marques said of the team’s blowout victory. “We played solid on defense and solid on offense...We held our composure when it could have gotten really ugly. I’m really proud of the team.”
The No. 6 ‘Jackets buzzed to victory behind a complete team effort, with the defense allowing just 190 yards of total offense by the No. 7 Rams while their own offense put together 302 total yards on the night.
Behind quarterback Jason Pimentel, Hilmar jumped out to a 34-0 lead by halftime. Casa Roble’s offense couldn’t get anything going against the ‘Jackets’ strong defensive front, which forced two turnovers on downs during the Rams’ first two possessions and allowed Pimentel to score the first touchdown of the game with a one-yard run in the first quarter.
After the Hilmar defense forced a Rams punt on their next possession, Pimentel got the ball back and hit running back Broc Perry with a 49-yard touchdown screen to start the second quarter up 14-0. Hilmar’s first of three turnovers came on the first play of Casa Roble’s ensuing possession when Luis Vargas stripped the ball from a Rams receiver and Pimentel recovered the fumble.
That allowed Pimentel to cap another scoring drive with a 16-yard touchdown, extending the ‘Jackets’ lead to 21-0. Hilmar went on to score during their next two possessions thanks to a four-yard rushing touchdown from Perry and a 36-yard touchdown pass from Pimentel to wide receiver Derek Taylor.
“I’d love to expect this every game, but we came in and we knew that they were a great team,” Taylor said. “Their quarterback is amazing...But we came in and played football and had fun.”
The Hilmar defenders were able to neutralize Casa Roble quarterback Jason Lindahl, and Taylor picked him off on the Rams’ first possession of the second half. Lindahl wasn’t himself thanks to pressure from the defense, which received a shot in the arm with the return of senior Nicholas Vitorino. The star defensive end played his first snaps Friday night after being out with injury since Aug. 30 and sacked Lindahl twice.
“It was a game changer...Having him back is a big spark plug,” Marques said.
Jerardo Ponce also collected a turnover when he came up with a fumble recovery following Taylor’s interception, leading to a one-yard touchdown by Perry to put Hilmar up 41-0 to end the third quarter. With the third string ‘Jackets in the game and a running clock in the fourth, Casa Roble was able to score their lone touchdown of the game with a three-yard run by running back Dylan Crabtree.
“We came out and we played as a team. I think our key to success is that we're truly a family,” Taylor said.
Hilmar won the turnover battle on the night, collecting three and surrendering none. The Hilmar defense also forced the Rams to turn over the ball on downs five times during the game. Pimentel finished the night 7-14 passing with 157 passing yards and two passing touchdowns, and also collected 69 rushing yards on nine carries with two rushing touchdowns.
Taylor had 127 all-purpose yards Friday night with a touchdown, and Perry tallied 87 all-purpose yards with three touchdowns — one receiving and two rushing.
With the 41-8 victory, Hilmar moves on to the section championship game next Saturday and will face Escalon High for the D-V title. It’s the fifth time in Marques’ tenure as Hilmar head coach that his team will face off against their Trans Valley League rival in the section title game. Earlier in the season, Hilmar fell to Escalon 24-13 during league play.
“We're a different team now and I'm looking forward to the competition,” Marques said. “It's a really friendly rivalry and our towns get along really well. The teams get along really well. It's just good, smash mouth TVL and I wouldn't have it any other way.”
Hilmar and Escalon (No. 1) will play at 6 p.m. Nov. 27 at St. Mary’s High School in Stockton.