Hilmar High varsity football came up short in Friday's home contest against Sonora in the Yellowjackets' homecoming night that didn't end well after a 37-27 final, but the score did not reflect the game.
“Nothing to cry about because our guys should be proud,” said Hilmar head coach Frank Marques. “They battled their butts off. Win or lose, we still have all the league games left. This game tonight, what it did was make us a better football team.”
Coming into Friday's game, Sonora was ranked No. 87 in California, while Hilmar was No. 239.
That didn't slow down or scare the 'Jackets, who took the challenge with a head-on approach and matched Sonora up front with their physicality and strong line play from start to finish.
“I couldn't be happier with how we played. We messed up on some things but we will fix it and we will be better because of it,” said Hilmar's Tyler Amarante.
Sonora, who came in as the big favorite after they had dominated their previous opponents, did not expect Hilmar to play as tough as they did.
They learned the hard way as Hilmar came out with a fury in the opening drive, forcing Sonora to go three and out. However, they forced Hilmar to do the same in their first drive.
After getting a feel for one another after the opening series, each side knew they were in for a barn burner that escalated quickly and saw multiple moments of highs and lows for both sides.
“We could've done everything better... too many mistakes,” said Hilmar center Derek Rios.
Sonora capped off their second drive with a touchdown and took the early 7-0 lead with 5:19 in the first quarter after an 11-play drive.
The 'Jackets responded with a scoring drive to match Sonora on the ensuing drive, which ended with an Xavier Burke 15-yard touchdown reception to tie it 7-7 just before the first quarter closed out.
Hilmar forced Sonora to a second three and out on their next drive but on the punt, Hilmar's Gaven Azevedo fumbled the ball and Sonora was inside Hilmar's 40-yard line with great field position.
This time, Sonora was held on third down once again and forced to punt but the Hilmar offense also punted, setting up Sonora for their 80-yard touchdown drive with 7:13 left to make it 14-7.
With little time to waste in the half, Cody Rentfro returned the kickoff for 95 yards but the missed extra point made it 14-13.
Sonora scored two more times before the half ended to make it 27-13.
Hilmar went on to outscore Sonora 14-10 in the second half, but the surge just wasn't enough.
Sonora tallied 260 passing yards and 168 rushing, while Hilmar accumulated 43 rushing yards and 148 passing.
Sonora only committed one turnover for the game while Hilmar had multiple.
“We played hard though, the best we could, just couldn't get the win,” said Rios.
Burke scored the penultimate touchdown for Hilmar after a three-yard grab made it 27-20 with 6:59 left in the third.
After Sonora tacked on another score to extend the lead to 30-20, Hilmar drove down the field for a six-play drive that eventually ended with a Chase Kindberg pass to Klay Farris for a corner touchdown that made the score 27-30 with 4:12 left.
It almost looked like the game was nearing a fairytale ending but Sonora ran a halfback trick play pass on a critical third down to seal the deal after a 79-yard touchdown completion extended the lead to double digits with 3:13 left.
Hilmar drops to 3-1 while Sonora improves to 4-0.
“Sometimes in the David versus Goliath battles, the giants win. We are a tough team, we will be back,” Joey Pereira added.
“We gotta go and learn from this game. We will meet them later on in playoffs, I know we will,” Amarante added.
Hilmar's next game will be on the road at Livingston at 7:30 p.m. Friday.