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‘Jackets advance to semifinals with second half surge
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Hilmar quarterback Jason Pimentel rushes down the field during Hilmar's quarterfinal playoff victory over Sonora Friday night (ANGELINA MARTIN/The Journal).

The Hilmar High varsity football team mounted a second half comeback in the foothills Friday night when Sonora High hosted the Yellowjackets in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V quarterfinal playoff game. 

Despite only gaining 27 offensive yards in the game’s first half, Hilmar punched a ticket to a semifinal matchup against Casa Roble High at home next week with a 35-31 victory over the Wildcats. 

“A lot of credit to our coaches. We made great adjustments at halftime,” Hilmar head coach Frank Marques said. “I’m just so happy.”

Sonora outgained Hilmar by 178 yards on offense in the first two quarters, tacking on 18 points by the half. The Yellowjackets’ only score of the first half came thanks to Broc Perry, who grabbed the ricochet of a blocked punt and ran it into the end zone at the end of the first quarter. 

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Running back Broc Perry finds a hole in the Sonora defense during Friday's game (ANGELINA MARTIN/The Journal).

Down 18-7 coming into the third quarter, Hilmar’s momentum received a shot in the arm when Jason Pimentel recovered a Sonora fumble on the first play of the second half. From there, the ‘Jackets capitalized and Pimentel pivoted to his role as quarterback, running in a five-yard touchdown to put Hilmar within three points of the Wildcats 18-15. 

On their next possession, Pimentel hit wide receiver Derek Taylor with a 56-yard pass and Perry followed that up with a rushing touchdown, this one from seven yards out, to take the lead 22-18. It was back and forth from there, with Sonora scoring on its next possession to go up 25-22, and Perry collected his third touchdown of the night with a four-yard run. 

The turning point of the game came as Hilmar led just 29-25 at the start of the fourth quarter. After Hilmar kicker Andre Alves punted the ball near the end zone, the ball bounced off a Sonora player’s foot and Yellowjacket Jax Branco scooped it up and ran it in for a touchdown. After a missed PAT, the ‘Jackets were in the driver’s seat with a 35-25 lead. 

Despite a final Sonora touchdown as time expired in the game, Hilmar completed the comeback and emerged victorious 35-31. 

“Sonora is a great team and they made some mistakes tonight that helped us a lot,” Marques said. “We’ve had injuries this season; we’ve had setbacks and these kids just believe in each other and there’s a lot of love on the team.”

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Receiver Derek Taylor gives the 'Jackets good field position on a kick return (ANGELINA MARTIN/The Journal).
The difference in the game was turnovers; Hilmar collected three on the night and surrendered none. The ‘Jackets exploded in the second half for 196 yards of total offense, while Sonora was right behind them with 194. 

Pimentel finished the night 3-7 passing with 74 passing yards and had 75 rushing yards on 20 carries with one touchdown. Perry collected 60 rushing yards on 14 carries and had two rushing touchdowns. 

Next week, Hilmar will welcome Casa Roble at home for the semifinal matchup beginning at 7 p.m. Catch full highlights from the quarterfinals on the next episode of The Blitz.

“It’s just been resilience, resilience, resilience and we want to continue that,” Marques said.