Sean Lynch: 'Jackets' O'Brien steps up

December 3, 2011 

Jonathan O'Brien has had to fill in for an injured Andrew Olson before.

Just never quite when the stakes were so high.

With the game tied 17-17 and just under 2 minutes to play, Olson was sidelined with a possible broken arm after a 13-yard pass completion to Zack Giuliano.

The Hilmar senior had fallen on it awkwardly while scrambling a little earlier in the game, and a helmet to his forearm on the completion to Giuliano finished him off.

Hilmar was forced to burn one of its two remaining timeouts to assess the injury, and when the team emerged, O'Brien was at the helm.

"I just came to the sideline and I hear Andrew say, 'I think I broke my arm,' " O'Brien said. "Coach (Frank) Marques came over and asked if I wanted to go into the game.

"I said heck yes."

With the ball at the Yellowjacket 39-yard line, O'Brien orchestrated the game winning drive.

Despite not getting to warm up on the sideline, O'Brien came out firing. He completed all three passes he attempted for 29 yards, including a 15-yard strike to Tyler Silva that moved Hilmar into field goal range with about 40 seconds to go.

"I never even saw him," O'Brien said. "I just had faith he'd be where he was supposed to be.

"I never imagined I'd be at quarterback for the final drive, but it was a sweet feeling to win this one for Franky."

Kurtis Bettencourt's game-winning 41-yard field goal with 19 seconds left will be the lasting impression people remember of the 20-17 Hilmar win, but O'Brien's late heroics are certainly worthy of 1A status.

Sweet revenge

Speaking of Bettencourt, the Hilmar senior exacted some revenge after missing two big field goals in the first matchup between these two.

The senior made a bold decision to skip soccer this season and just play football. Obviously that proved to be a pretty good call on Friday night.

He also got the privilege of of re-enacting history. Escalon head coach Mark Loureiro attempted to ice Bettencourt, calling three straight timeouts before he could kick.

For history buffs, Loureiro pulled the same move in the 2003 Sac-Joaquin Section final against the Yellowjackets. Hilmar missed that kick and lost the game.

"Coach told me it was coming," Bettencourt said. "I was just laughing. The coaches were cracking jokes on the sideline to keep me loose.

"What really helped me was making the first kick. After that my confidence was pretty high and I knew I just needed to do the same thing.

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