Down 4-3 nearing the 79th minute, Hilmar High’s boys soccer team had their backs against the wall and head coach Louie Bettencourt told his star defender, Miguel Padilla, to move up for the final set piece of the game.
Padilla sprinted down nearly half the field length, and powered a game-tying header in the back of the net on the far side, which set up his squad for overtime where they took over and knocked in a pair of goals to secure the 6-4 win and the Division-V Sac-Joaquin Section title.
“Just before the last minute, I look back at my defense and tell Miguel (Padilla) to get up there since he was sitting and told him to get up there and the odds are like two hundred to one and for some reason, he headed it in and tied it up. [It] changed the whole game; it was unbelievable.” said Bettencourt.
It definitely changed the outcome of the game, allowing the Yellowjackets the chance to outscore Encina in the final 21 minutes, 3-0.
Soon after the final whistle, Bettencourt was then lifted up in high spirits by his team as they chanted and celebrated for a couple minutes after rushing the field and clearing the bench.
“What a great thing for them, and now going on to the next thing is the first team to make state, so something else in history we are accomplishing,” said Bettencourt. “Getting thrown up was fun, I was just hoping they didn’t drop me.”
Hilmar High has a lot to be proud of — this is the fourth Sac-Joaquin Section banner Yellowjacket athletic teams have earned this year, including football, girls volleyball and wrestling.
Hilmar captured the boys soccer program’s fourth SJS banner and their second since 2015 when they hoisted the D-VI banner. That year they went 17-4-2.
On that squad, just like Saturday’s team was Bryan Millan, who was a freshman starting in that section title game nearly four years ago.
Millan is also a two-time section champion for football, having won the past two seasons.
This season the Yellowjackets’ current record stands at 17-6-2.
The game itself was hard to believe, with a ridiculous amount of drama.
Hilmar scored first easily and nearly capitalized on over four open chances, but they trailed at the half after several miscues, including a penalty kick made by Encina.
Down 3-1 to start the second half, Hilmar knew what needed to be done.
They would essentially outscore Encina in the final 60 minutes, 5-1.
But they needed a spark or some way to get things going down two with just 40 minutes left in regulation.
Millan took matters into his own hands as his teammates began to assist in pressuring up front.
Millan found his second goal of the night at the 49th minute to cut the deficit to 3-2.
About 50 seconds later, Millan found the back of the net to secure his hat-trick and the game was tied at 3-3 by the 50th. It took 10 minutes for Encina to tack on their final goal of the game to go up 4-3.
They held onto the lead for the next 19 minutes, until the unthinkable occurred with less than 70 seconds remaining.
Padilla, from his center back position, sprinted his way nearly 50 yards and into the penalty area, after a set piece cross set him up perfectly as he powered his header in the back of the net to tie it, 4-4, setting up overtime.
Following a scoreless first overtime, Hilmar then needed just two minutes into the second to go up 5-4 with an Edgar Chavez goal. Jose Guerrero erased any doubt by notching the team’s sixth goal just two minutes later to secure the win.
The ‘Jackets advance to the CIF state tournament with an opponent and time yet to be determined.