On a night when they wanted to cement their standing atop the Trans-Valley League and stand tough on their own turf, Hilmar accomplished both, sending the visiting Escalon Cougars away with a 28-14 loss on Friday night.
It was a game that saw the Yellowjackets score on their first possession, only to have Escalon equal the feat.
The Cougars won the toss and deferred, so all the host team did was go on a tidy two-and-a-half minute scoring drive to get the game started. Tyler Robinson got them nearly to midfield on his kickoff return and it was only a few plays later that quarterback Jonathan O’Brien handed it off to Joseph Bello for the score. The point after was good for a 7-0 Hilmar lead with 9:32 to play in the first quarter.
A kickoff return by Escalon’s Christian May got the Cougars to the 35-yard line and they answered the Hilmar drive with one of their own, scoring on a short touchdown pass after the Yellowjackets stuffed three successive rushing attempts from the 2-yard line. With the point after, Escalon tied it up, 7-7, with 39 seconds to go in the opening frame.
Second quarter action saw O’Brien complete a pass up the middle to Kris Camden on a drive, which then stalled, and they set up for a field goal attempt. The kick was wide left but the Cougars were called for roughing the kicker, and the Yellowjackets got a second chance on the penalty and didn’t miss, Trent Orosco running it in on the next play from scrimmage for the score. The kick was good, 14-7 Hilmar with 10:27 to go in the half.
The host team held Escalon to a quick possession and then made it 21-7 on a 45-yard touchdown run from O’Brien, kick good, with 7:59 to go in the half.
O’Brien had six carries for 49 yards and a touchdown in the first half, while completing 3 of 6 pass attempts for 68 yards over the first two quarters.
The Yellowjackets added their final score of the night on a 12-yard pass from O’Brien to Robinson with 5:40 to play; the kick was good for a 28-7 lead.
Escalon refused to leave without getting back on the scoreboard, battling on their next possession to punch one through on an 8-yard catch and run by Wesley Dick. The point after was good for a 28-14 score, the Cougars tried the onside kick with 49 seconds to go in the game, but Hilmar was able to recover.
From there, it was two snaps and the victory formation for the Yellowjackets, keeping their league record perfect and taking the inside track to the title and top seed into the playoffs. Two weeks remain in the regular season.
Hilmar honored its senior cheerleaders and players before the game, and a halftime Breast Cancer Awareness Month ceremony saw the release of pink balloons from midfield by members of the crowd whose lives have been touched by breast cancer.