HILMAR — H Bernardo Duran and Robert Lindo are built more like wide receivers than defensive ends.
The 6-foot-1, 180-pound seniors opened the season battling it out for a spot in Hilmars spread offense.
A lack of options pushed the pair to the defensive line. Its been a fortuitous move for head coach Frank Marques and the Yellowjackets.
Duran and Lindos 27 combined sacks make them the most prolific defensive tandem in the Sac-Joaquin Section and set the tone for Hilmars relentless pass rush.
Its something the Yellowjackets (13-0) hope will provide an edge on Saturday as they square off against top-seeded and defending state champion Central Catholic (12-1) in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 4 title game.
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. at Lincoln High in Stockton.
We didnt have any prototype defensive ends, so they really got pushed into the job because they had the closest builds to what coach (George Stavriandakis) likes to use, Marques said. Theyve both been huge surprises. They dont have the size you usually see in dominant defensive ends, but they are both so quick and athletic that they are tough to block.
Both are good, quiet, unassuming kids that just fit in perfectly with the personality of this defense.
Lindo and Duran are surprised by their success. Lindo is in just his third season of organized football. Duran had some experience at defensive end, but didnt anticipate starting there.
I didnt see this season coming, but a lot of the credit goes to just having a great defensive line, Duran said. The work done by (David) Bisby, (Jacob) Sousa and (Britten) Smith before he got injured has helped free Robert and I to make plays. They open a lot of holes and we just have to go through.
The duos impact on Friday nights has been undeniable. They helped make dynamic Center High School quarterback Tyrel Andersons evening an uncomfortable one in Hilmars semifinal victory. The pair combined for 22 tackles and each had a sack. Durans hit on Anderson early in the second half helped lead to a game-changing interception.
Its just another example of what a disruptive force theyve become. And not just in the passing game. Marques said Duran and Lindos play against the run has been every bit as pleasant a surprise as their sack totals. Duran (83 tackles) and Lindo (74) rank fifth and sixth on the team in tackles, respectively.
Because of their size you might think they would struggle against the run, but theyre really difficult to block and just get after the ball carrier, Marques said. They just hustle non-stop. One play that comes to mind was where Lindo made a touchdown-saving tackle on a play that was 30 yards down field.
The Hilmar defense will need that effort against Central Catholic and its grueling run game.
A massive offensive line and 2,000-yard running back Matt Ringer have helped the Raiders rack up 278.5 rushing yards per game and just more than 42 points. CC has upped its game through the first three rounds of the playoffs, averaging over 56 points per game.
Its definitely going to be a challenge, Lindo said. We havent seen an offensive line like them.
But were a defense that likes to hit. We get pumped up when someone pops a runner. Once we get fired up, well be OK.
Staff writer Sean Lynch can be reached at (209) 385-2476 or firstname.lastname@example.org.