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Hilmar’s season ends with loss to Escalon
Hilmar football
Jax Branco runs the ball down the field for the Yellowjackets in their playoff matchup against Escalon (Photo by AnnaMarie Silveira).

Hilmar High’s season came to and Friday night with a 42-28 loss to Trans-Valley League rival Escalon in the second round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V playoffs.

It was the same way the Yellowjackets’ season ended in 2021, and the same way the Yellowjackets’ season ended in 2019 — with a playoff loss to the Cougars.

This season was different in that the team met in the quarterfinal round rather than in the final.

“I’d say that they’re the best team in this bracket,” said Hilmar coach Frank Marques, whose team finishes the year 7-4. “It sucks that we had to play them so early, in the second round, but we would’ve had to face them at some point.”

For the past five years — not counting the shortened COVID season of 2020, these teams have met twice per season: once in the league play and again in the playoffs. In 2018 and 2019, it was the Yellowjackets that came out on top in the playoff matchups on their way to section titles. Escalon returned the favor in their next two postseason meetings on the way to section titles.

The Cougars (9-3) have to win two more games to claim a third straight section crown, but for now they have the upper hand on their rival and gained a measure revenue for a 21-20 setback on Sept. 30.

“Nothing’s easy,” said Escalon coach Andrew Beam. “We knew it was going to be like this. That final score is not indicatives of how close this game was. We had a couple of big plays late.

“I think it was disrespectful to our league and disrespectful to Hilmar that we had to play them in the second round.”

The Sac-Joaquin Section seeded Hilmar No. 4 in the D-V playoffs and Escalon No. 5. The section could have moved the Yellowjackets into the No. 3 slot, but it would’ve meant dropping a 10-0 Liberty Ranch team below Hilmar, something the section was loathe to do, even though Liberty Ranch’s schedule was much softer than the Yellowjackets’ slate, according to the rankings.

After falling into a 14-0 against the Cougars, Hilmar got back into the game when sophomore quarterback Caden Bailey busted free for a 65-yard touchdown run with 10:52 to play in the first half.

Escalon made it a two-touchdown margin again when Ryker Peters scored on a 21-yard with 6:35 left in the third quarter, but Hilmar again drew to within one score on Bailey’s 1-yard keeper that made it 21-14 with 27 seconds left in the third.

“We were excited when we saw that we’d get Hilmar in the second round,” said Peters. “We wanted revenge. We were as focused as can be. Everybody was dialed in. We absolutely wanted this.”

Peters struck again on the first play of the fourth quarter, this time from 47 yards out, to make it 28-14.

But Hilmar wouldn’t quit. 

“This team is like the coronavirus,” said Escalon’s Logan Anderson. “You’re never done with them.”

The Yellowjackets, needing a quick score to get back into it, got just that when Luis Vargas capped a five-play, 91-second drive with a 3-yard burst into the end zone that made it 28-21 with 10:14 remaining.

But a 56-yard TD pass from Donovan Rozevink to Anderson with 5:27 to play, and a 54-yard hook-up from Rozevink to Owen Nash with 2:47 made it 42-21.

Hilmar’s final score came on a 10-yard Vargas run with 1 second showing on the clock.

Peters finished the game with 218 yards rushing on 23 carries, while Anderson 98 receiving yards on five receptions. Nash had 85 yards on two catches. 

For the Yellowjackets, Bailey competed 10 of 16 passes for 122 yards, while rushing for 127 yards on 15 totes.

“It’s bittersweet,” said Hilmar receiver Derek Taylor, who caught four passes for 101 yards in the final high school game of his career. “I’ve gone out to Escalon the last three years. But I don’t think I’d want to go out to anybody other than Escalon. All my respect goes out to them. They’re a great team.”

SJS Division 5 Quarterfinals: Hilmar vs Escalon | The Blitz Season 10

The Blitz has coverage from the SJS Division 5 Quarterfinal between league rivals Hilmar High and Escalon High that took place on November 11, 2022. Sponsored By: Realtor Michael Rocha
By: Frankie Tovar

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