ORANGEVALE - A ninth blue banner for the Hilmar Yellowjackets will have to wait another year as their season came to a close on a rainy Friday night in Orangevale after falling to the Casa Roble Rams 34-14 in the semifinal round of the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division V playoffs.
It was a game that the three-seeded Yellowjackets were trailing in almost immediately, as the two-seeded Rams scored on the first play from scrimmage, a 58-yard bomb from quarterback Connor Campbell to UC Davis-bound star receiver Cole Owens. The duo connected again in the second quarter to extend their lead to 14-0.
Hilmar was able to get on the board on the ensuing drive thanks to a 17-yard rushing touchdown from junior Caden Bailey, but any momentum that was built was quickly extinguished as Campbell tossed his third touchdown of the game — an 11-yard strike to tight end Logan March — just 11 seconds before the half.
Bailey scored again from one yard out on the first play of the fourth quarter to cut the Casa Roble lead to 21-14, but an exhausted defense was unable to wrangle the Rams as they scored on two of their final three drives — rushing touchdowns courtesy of running backs Elijah Huddle and Richie Graham.
“They just have a lot of athletes. They are loaded,” Hilmar head coach Frank Marques said after the game. “Our kids battled the hardest they could. They gave everything they had, and sometimes you just get beat by a better team, so hats off to them…”
With the loss, the Yellowjackets finished the 2023 season with an overall record of 8-4 after going 4-1 in the Trans-Valley League.
Marques described this year’s Hilmar squad as the hardest working team he has ever had.
“Many times, they were undersized or not the most talented team on the field, but they always came out and battled, week in and week out. They’re overachievers. I couldn’t be prouder of them. I’m really going to miss them because they showed up every day and worked really hard… They exemplified what Hilmar football is all about.”