The No. 3 Hilmar High boys soccer team is heading to the CIF Division-V Northern California State Championship game after they toppled No. 2 Anderson High on the road in a 5-3 win that saw Jose Guerrero notch another hat-trick.
“Definitely a really tough game, pretty even as far as player to player… We came out on top because we were a little more patient and then when we had our opportunities, we took advantage of it,” said Hilmar head coach Louie Bettencourt. “My congrats go out to our players, they did a good job and got rewarded by working hard.”
The Yellowjackets have definitely been working hard, which has led to their winning five consecutive playoff games.
During that five-game stretch, the Hilmar offense has scored 18 goals while allowing nine and getting two clean sheets.
“I am very pleased with my squad. They have worked hard and I believe in them and they are starting to believe in themselves,” said Bettencourt. “We are going to hopefully come out on top. We have played too many games to come up short.”
Over the last 10 games Hilmar has gone 8-2, while winning five straight.
On Thursday, they needed a win to keep their season alive.
Following their Sac-Joaquin Section D-V title, Hilmar defeated Lowell in penalty kicks on Tuesday with a 4-1 final.
This earned them a spot in Thursday’s semifinal on the road, about 244.7 miles up north.
They took advantage of the game early on, taking on a squad that had lost just once all year.
Anderson High was 24-1-1 prior to the game and ranked No. 107 in the state.
Hilmar was ranked No. 230 in California, but those numbers didn’t matter.
The first half saw Guerrero nail a hat-trick, and it took him 39 minutes.
About 15 minutes in, Guerrero scored his first goal after Jonathan Chavez finished with the assist and they went up 1-0.
Five minutes later, Guerrero followed up with his second goal to go up 2-0 after Miguel Padilla got the assist.
Hilmar then relaxed for a bit and Anderson tied it up at 2-2 about 15 minutes later.
With one minute remaining till the half, Eladio Madrigal found Guerrero for his third and final goal to go up 3-2 at the half.
“I told them we have to play smarter; we have to play ahead and play smart and keep our shape,” said Bettencourt. “They had some real good ball handlers, very technical, so we couldn't bite, just contain, play a little smarter since we were winning, let them come at us and then we can counter.”
Hilmar notched their fourth goal when Vincent Moran found the back of the net to make it 4-2 by about the 55th minute after Padilla got his second assist.
Anderson made it 4-3, but then with 15 minutes left in the game, on a breakaway, Hilmar punched their ticket to the state title game and went up by two at 5-3 when Madrigal found the back of the net after Gustavo Iturriaga assisted him.
“I told them to keep their shape, hold it, don't be top heavy and contain,” said Bettencourt. “They worked hard. I really only used one sub and one sub with a minute left, everyone had to hang in there, and I told them to dig deep and no reason to put fresh legs, but I told them to hold their ground, very physical team, good size, big boys, very good match.”
Hilmar, with an enrollment of just about 600 kids, will advance to the State title game on the road at No. 1 Oakland Tech — which has an enrollment of over 2,000 kids — at 2 p.m. Saturday.
“If we play our game and do what we are supposed to do, I believe we can come out on top,” Bettencourt added. “The good thing is we’ve been there and we know what to expect. We have to come out and fire; we can't stand around, we have to come out and play and stay focused and empty the tank. We made it this far, we cannot let up, and not let the guard down and mentally be ready.”