Hilmar High is headed to Sacramento.
Two years removed from their last Division IV Sac-Joaquin Section title appearance, the Yellowjackets are back in the big game after a thrilling 19-15 victory over Center High on Friday.
With the semi-final win, Hilmar broke the school record for most wins with its 13-0 record and cemented a championship matchup with Central Catholic High—a rematch from the 2008 season.
“It’s special because these kids worked so hard, so this is really about the kids and the job they’ve done all season,” head coach Frank Marques said. “It’s a fantastic group of kids that we love to be around every day, so I’m glad we get another week with them.
“This team, they just do what it takes to win. Nothing fancy, nothing pretty, we just win football games,” Marques added.
The road to the section championship game was a winding one, however, as the ’Jackets were harassed by a physical Cougars team for much of the first half. After 35-yard Devon Medeiros field goal put Hilmar up by three points, Center responded with a safety which was followed by a Tyler Anderson scrambling score.
Hilmar very nearly entered the half with low morale and a six point deficit, but with one second left in the half Medeiros turned the tide with his leg. Lined up from mid-field, Medeiros nailed a 56 yard touchdown to make it 6-8 at the half. The kick was a school record.
“I was thanking coach Marques for having faith in me,” Medeiros said. “I make them in practice, but I’ve never made it with a snap and hold before.”
“I’ve been praising him all year long, maybe people haven’t been listening, but I’ve been saying what a great kicker he is,” Marques said of his kicker. “He’s just a phenomenal kicker and a great weapon we have.”
Hilmar’s offense continued to stall in the second half and with Anderson connecting with receiver Elias JBeily for the occasional chunk of yards, its defense was about ready to allow another score.
But linebacker Breck Smith would have none of it.
Smith snatched an Anderson pass out of the air with 2:09 remaining in the third quarter and returned it 57 yards for Hilmar’s first touchdown.
“All I knew is I was scoring. That’s all we had to do, we needed a big play and I did it,” Smith said.
Anderson found redemption on the ensuing kickoff and quashed Hilmar’s momentum of the ensuing kickoff, however, as he scored for the second time of the night on a 99 yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
The ‘Jackets were stung, but they weren’t out. The defensive unit wrangled in Center long enough to watch their offense retake the lead on a Jonathan O’Brien touchdown pass to Tyler Robinson in the opening minute of the fourth quarter. Hilmar was once again up on the scoreboard, 19-15.
“I feel absolutely blessed. Just surrounded with the players we have—that defense, we would be nowhere right now without that defense of ours, and the players around me, the weapons I have at receiver, offensive line, everybody, the coaching staff,” O’Brien said. “The credit goes to the whole entire team.”
Hilmar will now return to its second D4 SJS championship game in three years.
“It hasn’t quite hit me yet, but as soon as it does it’s going to be the biggest moment of my life,” Smith said.
Next week’s matchup will be a rematch from the 2008 season when the ‘Jackets defeated the Raiders 17-6.
“It’s going to be a hell of a game. We wanted them all year long; that’s all we’ve been waiting for is Central,” Smith said.
“It’s a great matchup. Coach Canepa is one of the classiest guys in the area so it’s going to be a fun match up,” Marques said.