The Yellowjackets are one game away from a Section title banner for the first time since the 2007 season, all they have to do is win one more game.
Easier said than done, but after Wednesday's 5-0 CIF Division VI Sac-Joaquin Section semifinal win over Encina, it looks very possible for the 'Jackets who have outscored their two playoff opponents, 9-1.
“I am feeling happy... very pleased,” said Hilmar head coach Louie Bettencourt. “They did what I expected them to do, they put it together and we finally learned how to defend a lead and not give it up and I was real pleased with that.”
There's no doubt that the defense for Hilmar was the staple of Wednesday's game but it was goalkeeper Francisco Lepe who played lights out, making a remarkable 15 saves for the game.
When Lepe slipped up on a few occasions, Miguel Avila, Jamie Munoz and Rigoberto Salas were right there to help secure the shutout that stayed intact all game long.
Although Encina found some open opportunities in the opening minutes, Hilmar didn't allow anything to be scored and after the 'Jackets notched their first goal of the game, all bets were off.
Joshua Martinez struck the first goal for Hilmar after the 25th minute, driving the ball in about 10 yards and ripping a weak shot with his left heel from 22 yards just missing the top right corner post and catching nothing but net.
Hilmar followed with Brian Millan's first of three goals just four minutes later on a fast-break, nudging the ball in between the goalkeepers legs to take the 2-0 lead by the end of the first half.
About 19 minutes into the second half, Hilmar nearly found the third goal after Millan found Adrian Yepez inside the 18-yard box, but the shot sailed wide left.
“This whole time we been working at attacking the ball and we don't want to let them get shots off because if you do that creates big problems,” said Bettencourt. “Every time we had the chance I told them to step to it and get the job done, they did what they were supposed to.”
The defense stepped up on countless opportunities from afar and even inside the penalty area, clearing the ball away with their ferocious defense that was playing as if they were on a mission.
Hilmar then found the back of the net, three times, in the final three minutes of regulation, including stoppage time.
“We've been talking about it all year long to stay positive and do what we are capable of doing,” said Bettencourt. “We need to stay possessive and take shots and defend. We can't take nothing for granted, it's a huge honor to be where we are.”
Hilmar will face off against No. 3 Gustine for the D-VI Section Championship at a time yet to be determined and at a place yet to be named on Saturday. For more information visit cifsjs.org.