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‘Jackets earn down-to-the-last-minute victory over Huskies
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Hilmar’s Caden Wood battles for control of the ball with a Hughson defender in Friday’s league matchup. Hilmar won by the skin of their teeth against the defending CIF 5-AA state champs, 24-23 (ALEX MORALES/The Journal).

HILMAR — Trailing by a point with less than a minute to play in Friday night’s Trans-Valley League showdown at McSweeney Field, Hilmar High’s defense stopped Hughson’s attempt at a game-tying two-point conversion, recording a 24-23 victory.

After David Burns busted in from the 1 to shave the deficit to one point with 42.4 seconds to play, Huskies head coach Shaun King kept his offense on the field and opted to go for the win right then and there.

King called Burns’ number again, but Hilmar’ defense was up to the task and kept the 5-11, 195-pound senior out of the end zone — by mere inches.

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Hilmar’s John Labno reaches for a pass in Friday’s contest against Hughson (ALEX MORALES/The Journal).

The Huskies trailed 24-10 with 10:06 remaining in the contest after Caden Bailey scored from 44 yards out to give Hilmar a two-score edge.

Hughson wasted no time getting back into it when quarterback Robert McDaniel connected with Malakai Sumter on an 82-yard TD pass that made 24-17 with 9:47 left in the contest.

Hilmar went three-and-out on its ensuing possession, and after Hughson turned the ball over on downs with 4:20 remaining, the Yellowjackets again went three-and-out. But John Labno’s punt pinned Hughson on its own 10 with 2:30 showing on the clock.

The Huskies had just one timeout, but aided by a 15-yard pass interference call and a 15-yard personal foul for a late hit on McDaniel, they marched 90 yards in less than 2 minutes.

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Hughson quarterback Robert McDaniel tries to avoid a tackle during the Huskies’ matchup against Hilmar on Friday (ALEX MORALES/The Journal).

Hilmar struck first in the contest, scoring on its first play from scrimmage when Caden Bailey busted loose for a 73-yard TD run.

Hughson tied it up with 2:19 to play in the second quarter on Alex Villarreal’s 7-yard run, but he pulled a hamstring on the play and did not return. His status for next week is uncertain.

The Yellowjackets recaptured the lead on Spencer Azevedo’s 21-yard field goal as time expired in the first half.

After the Huskies tied the score on Ernie Mendoza’s 32-yard field goal, Hilmar reclaimed the lead on Merek Ellerd’s 4-yard run.

On its next possession, Hughson faced third-and-8 on its own 37, but McDaniel’s pass was batted down by Dakota Maynard and the Huskies were forced to punt.

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Hilmar’s Logan Cardosa looks back at the oncoming Hughson defenders while gaining yards for his Yellowjackets in the TVL matchup on Friday (ALEX MORALES/The Journal).

The Yellowjackets took over on their own 41.

A 12-yard completion to Bailey, plus 15 yards for a horse-collar tackle moved the ball to the 44, and Bailey busted free on the next play to give Hilmar its largest lead of the night.

With the victory, the Yellowjackets improve to 6-3 for the season and 3-1 in TVL play, while the Huskies fall to 6-3 and 2-2.

Hilmar will close out the regular season next week when it travels to take on Modesto Christian, while Hughson finishes up at Ripon.

Hilmar won the junior varsity game 35-14.