#2 Hilmar (11-1) v. #1 Escalon (11-1), 1 p.m. (Saturday from Lincoln High of Stockton)
Last week: Hilmar defeated Ripon Christian in D6 semifinal, 47-28
Preview: The Sac-Joaquin Section Division-VI final is set and it is a Trans Valley League rivalry thriller. This matchup is likely to bring in the highest number of attendants to any playoff game, with spectators, alumni, parents and faculty from both schools likely to attend. Thankfully it isn’t on Black Friday, which has been seen in the past and create some difficulty in many aspects, but this is a Saturday game, two days after Thanksgiving. Head coach Frank Marques is excited as he chases his fifth section title, including third straight, if they can dethrone the only team that has beaten them this year. Escalon is coming off arguably their best season in nearly a decade, and there is no doubt that they want to come out and bring all they have against their arch rivals. This game, and the buildup, could not get any better — and the hype is real. Everyone is in for an absolute show when these two powerhouse small school programs square off for more than just a title. Bragging rights are on the line as both teams’ equivalence of the Harvest Bowl is set, but for the section title and it can’t be any better. Look for this game more than likely be decided by 10 points or fewer, unless Escalon can repeat what occurred in the regular season. They faced off back on Sept. 27 and the Escalon Cougars came out on top, 34-21. In 2017, they fell to Escalon in the regular season, just like this year, but ended up pulling off the playoff win. Last year they swept through Escalon and this year the Cougars got the better end in the regular season meeting. Playoffs are a different story, Hilmar has beaten Escalon the past four playoff games, but anything can happen. A state berth is also on the line when the game ends on Saturday, so that is an added incentive for both teams. Hilmar is currently ranked No. 119 in the state while Escalon is No. 115 heading into Saturday’s game. Hilmar has outscored its opponents 450-166 after 12 games played, while Escalon has outscored its opponents, 476-169. Both teams also finished the year 5-1 in the Trans Valley League. Hilmar has won six straight heading into Saturday’s game and put up 47 points up against Ripon Christian — a team that had allowed just 50 points all season long prior to falling to Hilmar in the semifinal. Escalon has won four straight games. Look for this contest to be a hard-hitting contest, and probably one of the best section finales.
Prediction: I have strong ties to Hilmar, two of my best friends, that will more than likely be best men in my wedding (if it ever happens), are from there, but I must be honest and objective with my take on this. Escalon has lost four straight playoff games to Hilmar, and I think they are due with that, especially since Hilmar has won two straight section titles and the target on their backs is as big as it’s been for a while. Hilmar can still win, but I think shutting down Luke Anderson and Kaden Christensen will be critical. If they cannot control the line, and the similarities are evident from the first meeting in the first quarter, we should see the same ending, but a different score, a much closer score. My final score prediction is: Escalon 31, Hilmar 30 (I hope the Yellowjackets prove me wrong!).