Hilmar High traveled more than 50 miles to face their league rival Escalon High in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Division IV section championship at Lincoln High in Stockton on Friday. From the size of the crowd it seemed like more than half of Hilmar made the journey with them.
The Yellowjackets and Cougars had met earlier in the year in a neck and neck battle; Escalon won that game 10-0. As expected, it was another close game on Friday night but in the end it was the Yellowjackets who were crowned section champions, winning 20-17.
Escalon struck first, scoring on their first possession when Josh Miguel ran off tackle and down the right sideline for a 38-yard touchdown. It would take Hilmar three more possession to get its offense started and catch up. With 3:09 left in the second quarter, quarterback Andrew Olson scored from one yard out on a QB keeper, capping off a 13 play, 78 yard drive.
Escalon responded by driving the ball down the field, fending off a tough Hilmar defense led by linebackers Zach Giuliano and Anthony Diaz. With 11 seconds left in the half the Cougars made a 43-yard field goal with the ball inches away from hitting the left upright, giving Escalon the lead 10-7 going into the half.
After the half Hilmar hit the field running and rolled through the Cougars defensive line. On their first possession of the third quarter the Yellowjackets scored in only five plays, taking the lead 14-10 off an 11-yard touchdown run by Garrett Jericoff.
The back and forth play between Hilmar and Escalon continued through the third quarter and into the fourth. With 2:14 left in the game Escalon’s Matt Roberson ran in a 2-yard touchdown, tying up the game and setting the stage for a dramatic finish.
On the very first play of Hilmar’s subsequent possession Olson injured his elbow, leaving him on the sideline to watch backup Jonathan O’Brien finish the game. O’Brien led the Yellowjackets 38 yards down the field, setting up a 41-yard field goal for kicker Kurtis Bettencourt.
With 19 seconds left in the game Bettencourt nailed the field goal, solidifying Hilmar’s place in history as the 2011 Division IV Section Champions.
To contact Frankie Tovar, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.