HILMAR — In perhaps the biggest game since winning the 2008 Sac-Joaquin Section title, the Hilmar High football team knew what was at stake Friday night in the mega-showdown against Escalon High, which is best known as the defending state champ in Division III.
But a poor first half was too much for the Yellowjackets to overcome.
Despite holding the Cougars scoreless in the final two quarters, as well as rendering standout player Josh Miguel into a nonfactor, the Yellowjackets were humbled 10-0 in front of about 3,500 fans at their home field.
Escalon (9-0 overall) secured at least a share of the Trans-Valley League title heading into next week's season finale against Modesto Christian with a 5-0 league mark. However, this was the Cougars' lowest offensive output after killing teams like Dixon High and Riverbank High by a combined 140-0.
"There's a reason why they're the state champions," said Hilmar coach Frank Marques about the Cougars.
The Yellowjackets compiled 165 offensive yards to Escalon's 130, in addition to missing field goals of 45 and 44 yards. Quarterback Andrew Olson completed 10 of 19 passes for 113 yards but his two interceptions tainted his night.
"We did good," linebacker/running back Zack Guiliano said. "We just couldn't capitalize on offense."
For the Yellowjackets (8-2, 5-1 TVL), they're regular season is over. But their playoffs begin Nov. 11 and they're expected to host an opening-round game.
The Cougars were ahead 10-0 at halftime. After a face mask call against the Yellowjackets, quarterback Gino Franceschetti found wideout Alec Von Avlensleben on a 27-yard touchdown strike late in the first quarter. Then, Franceschetti kicked a 41-yard field goal about 6 minutes left in the half.
It turned out that was what the Cougars needed.
Hilmar made two key turnovers in the first half, including a fumble that later led to Franceschetti. The Yellowjackets managed to keep the Cougars from scoring in the second half, an effort by the Hilmar defense that Marques called "outstanding."
"We just gotta work on our offense," he said. "We were so caught up on stopping their offense. We can get better."
To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail email@example.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.