Schools often schedule weak opponents for homecoming, but Hilmar High opted for a different route, welcoming a challenge in the undefeated Orestimba High Warriors on Friday. Anxiety was in the air for all four quarters as Hilmar and Orestimba put on a show for the fans at McSweeney field, trading hard shots and touchdowns.
The tension reached a breaking point with 37 seconds left in regulation, however, as the Warriors, who trailed by five points, faced fourth down on Hilmar’s 20 yard line. While Yellowjacket players prayed and the coaching staff held their breath, Warrior quarterback Tanner Pruett dropped back and launched the football into the end zone where his receiver cradled — and then dropped — a potentially game-winning touchdown, sending the legions of ‘Jackets supporters into a fit of celebration. Hilmar had held on to win 24-19.
“I was scared (expletive),” Hilmar’s head coach Frank Marques said of the end of the game with a laugh. “They’re a really good team, so for us to play as well as we did and never give up, it was important.”
Friday’s matchup began much as it ended; with excitement. Orestimba took little time to show its talent, scoring off a 43 yard touchdown run from Pruett on a three-play opening drive. Hilmar responded with a calculated and consistent rushing attack up the middle as Jesse Izazaga played the role of workhorse. Trent Orosco capped the 11-play drive for the ‘Jackets (5-1 overall, 1-1 TVL) with a one yard touchdown run to tie the game.
The Warriors (5-1 overall, 1-1 TVL) scored again with one second left in the first quarter when Pruett connected with Steven Machado on a 24 yard touchdown pass but failed to do much more for the rest of the first half. Machado, who entered the game with 1,155 rushing yards, was kept quiet by Hilmar’s defense who allowed the runner a measly 13 rushing yards in the first half.
While the ‘Jacket defense contained Orestimba’s threats the quarterback tandem of Beau Balswick and Dustin Fantazia went to work for Hilmar. Fantazia stepped into the huddle in the second quarter and helped put his team on the scoreboard twice before the half, once via a Devon Medeiros 30 yard field goal and another by way of Orosco’s second touchdown run of 11 yards. Hilmar led 17-13 at the half.
“They are both equally good and they both did a great job tonight,” Marques said of his quarterbacks.
Hilmar scored its final touchdown of the night late in the third quarter off another Orosco touchdown. After a dismal first half, Machado sprang to life for the Warriors on their subsequent possession, finding pay dirt on a 50 yard draw. Orestimba threatened to take the lead twice in the fourth quarter but clutch interceptions from Kris Camden and Victor Texeira ensured a Hilmar win.
Hilmar finished the night with 324 yards of total offense. Izazaga led the game with 96 rushing yards and Orosco finished with 63 rushing yards. Fantazia’s breakout performance saw the quarterback record 75 yards, 63 of which were on the ground while Balswick threw for 47 yards.
The ‘Jackets face Riverbank High next Friday on the road.