HILMAR — As painful as it might be for the Hilmar High boys soccer players to admit, a big reason why the Yellowjackets are heading into the postseason with a league crown and a six-game winning streak is because of one singular moment.
The moment they realized they had fallen to Escalon High.
It took place on Sept. 3 in Trans-Valley League action. The Yellowjackets were 5-0, and beaming with confidence. “We’re the big dogs,” midfielder Adan Romo said recalling the attitude he and his teammates carried at the time. But their world and assurance came crashing down that afternoon, as the Cougars stunned Hilmar with a 3-2 win, also killing the Yellowjackets’ hopes of an undefeated league season.
“Once we got that first loss,” Hilmar coach Louie Bettencourt said, “I think they realized they lost a little bit of focus. They were going into the game thinking, ‘We’re 5-0. We should be able to beat this team and we shouldn’t have to do too much.’”
The Yellowjackets have regained focus.
For the past two weeks, Hilmar has been preparing for Tuesday’s quarterfinal home game of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V Tournament against Capital Christian High at 3:30 p.m. The Yellowjackets earned an opening-round bye after securing the No. 1 seed in the TVL and ending the regular season on Oct. 26. The long rest is a plus for a team looking to finish on top.
Hilmar’s last Section championship came in 2006, after fighting to a 2-1 overtime win over Livingston High. The Yellowjackets, who is in a three-way tie with Patterson High and Rocklin High with the second-most Section titles at three, came close to a fourth last season: Hilmar fell 3-1 to Patterson in a heated battle.
This time, the Yellowjackets feel confident about their chances.
“They definitely have the talent, the skills, the potential,” Bettencourt said.
It’s those qualities that helped the Yellowjackets to a 15-4-4 overall record and an 11-1 TVL league record, enough for their first league title since 2007. They also had two big-time offensive contributors in forwards Alex Bettencourt (25 goals, 14 assists) and Jacob Behem (24 goals, 13 assists). Behem arrived in America just two months ago as a foreign-exchange student from Germany, though, judging by his numbers, has adapted quite well in his new environment.
Another key contributor is Romo, though coach Bettencourt has said that his entire roster has been a factor all season. But this group took a major hit on Sept. 3 when the Yellowjackets suffered that season-changing loss to Escalon. They then went on a rampage, winning six straight games, shutting out three teams and finishing off the regular season with a 6-3 thumping of Escalon.
“We just need to keep playing our same game; and we’ve been playing really well,” Alex Bettencourt said.
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