The first game of league is always critical but none seemed more important than Friday's Trans-Valley League opener when Hilmar hosted their rivals, Escalon High.
Coming off a bye week, the Yellowjackets of Hilmar were eager to showcase early on that they were the team to beat in the TVL, but the Cougars had another thing in mind.
After committing well over double-digit penalties for the game and being held to just two scores, the 'Jackets fell to the Cougars 28-14 despite their second half push that made it a close game until the closing minutes.
“It is what it is, it's high school football and they won the game tonight, I don't want to get myself in trouble by maybe saying something I shouldn't,” said Hilmar head coach Frank Marques.
The victory came in controversy after multiple calls were contentious throughout the game.
The first quarter was an array of stops by both defenses after they saw numerous three and outs to kick off the opening quarter.
There were six punts and just 163 total yards of offense in the first half by both teams combined.
Escalon scored the only touchdown of the first half as they went into halftime leading 7-0.
The second half started off with three straight three and outs then Escalon’s Hugo Alcala rushed in for a 10-yard run to put the Cougars up 14-0 with 4:36 on the clock in the third.
Joao Silveira of Hilmar scored the first TD on a one-yard run with 1:57 left in the third to cut the lead to 14-7.
Hilmar then forced Escalon to punt before they tacked on their second and final touchdown after Tristan Crowley connected with Bryan Milan for a 46-yard pass that tied the game at 14-14 to start off the fourth quarter.
Stunned, but also staying collective, Escalon battled back immediately and scored on a seven-play drive to go up 21-14 with 8:28 left in the game.
The ‘Jackets followed up with a huge kickoff return, but were held scoreless after committing four penalties and fumbling the ball in just one drive.
Escalon then took advantage of the miscues and scored their fourth and final touchdown when Elliott Mello ran for a 41-yard score.
With a little over two minutes left, Hilmar marched down the field but their drive concluded with an interception from Lucciano Dutra and two knees later ended the game.
This is also the final time that Escalon head coach legend Mark Loureiro will be playing at Hilmar.
The loss to Escalon was also the first for Hilmar since losing on Oct. 17, 2014 to the Cougars after falling 41-34.
Escalon is 3-3 so far and 1-0 in the TVL while Hilmar goes to 3-3 and 0-1 in the TVL.
“We still have playoff hopes and we have to win three games somewhere so we have to keep battling, we have Hughson next week,” Marques added.
The next game for Hilmar will be on the road at Hughson at 7:30 p.m. Friday.