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Hilmar tops Le Grand to advance to Nor Cal final
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Bryan Millan of Hilmar High scored a hat-trick in Thursday’s 5-3 win over Le Grand in the second round of the Division-V CIF Northern California Regional bracket. - photo by EDDIE RUIZ/The Journal

The Hilmar High Yellowjackets boys’ soccer team is one win away from capturing the team’s first state title after they defeated No. 4 Le Grand on Thursday, 5-3, in the semifinal round of the Division-V CIF Northern California Regional tournament.

“We scored early and it takes a little air off the other team and gives us momentum and once you get that momentum going, just kept going at it. They pulled through, worked really hard and they were rewarded in the end,” said Hilmar head coach Louie Bettencourt.

Hilmar was the SJS D-V champs and Le Grand was crowned the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-VI champions. It was a battle of two of the top small school teams in the section.

Hilmar went up 1-0 after just the third minute after Eladio Madrigal found the back of the net.

Jose Guerrero made it 2-0 Hilmar by the 16th minute after he beat the final two defenders. As the goalkeeper came out, he heaved a lob shot over the keeper’s head from about 16 yards out and into the back of the net to extend the lead to two goals.

Bryan Millan then notched his first of three goals in the 21st minute when he beat the keeper on a one-on-one situation, placing the ball in the back of the net with ease. Hilmar went up 3-0 at the half.

Le Grand scored a goal by the 66th minute to cut the deficit to 3-1, then Millan responded with his second goal about six minutes later and the lead was extended to 4-1.

Guerrero found Millan for his hat-trick about three minutes later and the score read 5-1.

Le Grand scored two goals in the final three minutes of regulation then in stoppage time — both against Hilmar’s backup goalkeeper.

“We are very prepared. Everybody knows their role and they all know that they have to work and it is very important. We have come this far and now we have to see this till the end, hopefully we can bring that regional title home,” said Bettencourt.

Hilmar’s record currently stands at 18-6-2 overall.  They have scored four goals or more in five straight games.

Hilmar advances to the regional final against Mission or Oakland Tech at 4 p.m. Saturday.

“We are in the final and I am really excited for the kids since they are making history,” Bettencourt added. “At the same time, I want us to stay focused because after all that we have done, if we don’t finish in the final, it will be a little disappointing, I am hoping they stay focused and are driven and just one more to go here at home and it should be an advantage for us and we need to get this job done.”

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Jose Guerrero of Hilmar High scored the Yellowjackets second goal in Thursday’s 5-3 win over Le Grand from home in the second round of the CIF Division-V state game. - photo by EDDIE RUIZ/The Journal