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One game away: Hilmar faces Center High in semifinals
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With its undefeated record still intact after a 14-7 victory over rival Escalon High in last Friday’s Division IV SJS quarterfinal playoff game, Hilmar High finds itself in its second semifinal matchup in the last three years as it prepares to host Center High tonight.

The Cougars hail from Antelope and claimed the Pioneer Valley League title with a 4-1 league record. Center is known for its rush attack, averaging 273.6 yards a game. The Yellowjackets will have to keep an eye on the tandem of running back Joe Swen and quarterback Tyrel Anderson, who have racked up 1,683 and 1,072 rushing yards, respectively.

Anderson can also pass the ball effectively, however, as he’s notched 1,155 passing yards and nine touchdowns through the air.

Comparatively, Hilmar’s offense is much more balanced as it has averaged 175.3 rushing yards and 161.7 passing yards a game.

Jonathan O’Brien has exceeded expectations in his first year at the varsity level as he’s completed 117 of 181 passes for 1,940 yards and 24 touchdowns, while also recording 509 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on the ground.

The ‘Jackets’ run game is led by committee as Kenny Camden, Trent Orosco, and Bailey Gomes have combined for 975 rushing yards and nine touchdowns. Don’t let the number fool you, however, as the trio has also combined for 621 receiving yards and six receiving touchdowns. Center should also be weary of receiver Tyler Robinson who’s caught 49 passes for 897 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Interestingly enough, the Cougars have averaged more yards per game while the ‘Jackets have averaged more points.

In the end, the road to the Division IV championship game will be paved by the more dominant defense. It’s hard to bet against Hilmar’s stout defense as they have twice as many sacks than Center on the season and have held opponents to an average of 9.4 points a game while Center has held its opponents to an average of 15.4 points a game.

Without question, tonight’s game is set to be a physical one. Hilmar is determined to return to the section title game and add another trophy to its storied football program while Center will look to play the role of spoiler and upset the ‘Jackets.

The game will be held at Hilmar’s McSweeney Field and is set to begin at 7 p.m.