MODESTO — On opening night a few weeks ago, the Hilmar High football team committed a hard-to-forget blunder.
Three weeks later, the Yellowjackets redeemed themselves at the Johansen High football stadium, at least in the field of giant killers.
In facing their second Division I team in three weeks and their third consecutive upper-division team, they made a statement after a convincing 32-18 win over Enochs High, which has the sixth largest enrollment in the Sac-Joaquin Section at 2,556 students (compared to Hilmar’s fifth smallest at 677). The Yellowjackets, who were down 18-10 at halftime, shut out their opponents in the final two quarters.
“We can play with anybody,” Hilmar quarterback Andrew Olson said.
At the same time, the Yellowjackets didn’t say that the win was sweet revenge after losing to Beyer High 30-27 on Aug. 26 on a last-second field goal and after being ahead 27-7. Obviously, Enochs is not Beyer, though both are D-I teams that play in the same conference.
“You look for improvements all year long,” said Hilmar coach Frank Marques, whose team improved to 2-1 in the preseason before next Saturday’s game at North Monterey County in Castroville. “As long as the kids are getting better and the kids are improving, that’s what they did and that’s what we look for. You try to forget about the past and you have to deal with the future. This was a great win for us.”
That was the attitude the Yellowjackets had entering the second half. They were down by 8, and it could’ve been a closer score if game officials hadn’t reversed Tyler Silva’s 8-yard touchdown reception with 28 seconds left in the second quarter. Marques said the refs made the right call, saying that from his angle he thought the ball hit the ground before being scooped up.
“We’re a very strong team,” said senior Ryan White. “We know how to come together as a family. It really helps when we come together. It helped us bounce back.”
It could’ve been one of those crucial moments, one in which the Yellowjackets wished to do over. But no, Hilmar stayed calm and in control, using an aggressive running attack that saw its first second-half touchdown with 5:28 left in the third. Olson, who famously broke his arm against the Eagles last season, marched in for a 2-yard touchdown after he engineered a 9-play, 80-yard drive.
He then completed a pass to Kurtis Bettencourt for a 2-point conversion to tie the game at 18-18.
Shortly after one of Enochs’ three 3-and-outs, White sprinted down the right sideline for a 41-yard TD to give the Yellowjackets the 25-18 advantage.
From there, there was no stopping Hilmar.
Not even a fumble at the 1-yard line early in the fourth quarter fazed the Yellowjackets. They recovered the ball play three plays later after an Enochs fumble and when they found themselves in a third-and-17 situation, Olson found receiver Jesse Burk on a screen pass for a 17-yard TD and a 32-18 lead.
“It was amazing. All the guys loved” to be in that situation, said Olson, who completed 14 of 24 passes for 202 yards with one interception. “I told the guys, ‘Make your blocks, hold onto the ball, they’re going try to strip it.’ We ran, ran, ran, ran. They started to catch on to it. I rolled out, threw a little pass and he made it down the field and we got it in.”
There was no stopping the Yellowjackets despite their small-school status.
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