STOCKTON — The Hilmar offense had a tough time getting going in the first half against Central Catholic.
Before the Yellowjackets recorded their initial first down of the game they were looking up at a 24-point deficit as they eventually lost 24-10 in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 4 championship game at Stockton’s Lincoln High.
Bumbled snaps, dropped passes, fumbles and penalties were too much to overcome against a very good Central Catholic defense.
“We made some uncharacteristic mistakes,” said quarterback Jonathan O’Brien said. “A lot of it was my fault. We turned the ball over too much. We didn’t play that near flawless game I talked about us having to play.”
Hilmar went three-and-out on its first four possessions and then it got worse as Trent Orozco fumbled a handoff exchange and Central Catholic’s Louis Marcella pounced on it at the Yellowjackets’ 14-yard line.
The turnover led to a 26-yard field goal by Kenny Smart that gave the Raiders (12-1) a 24-0 lead with 1:50 left in the first half.
At that point in the game the Hilmar offense had accounted for five total yards on 13 plays.
“We just had to keep plugging away,” Hilmar head coach Frank Marques said. “We were trying everything in the playbook. I think we had a little bit of nerves early. This was the first big game for some of these guys.”
Not only did the Yellowjackets have to compete against the size of the Raiders up front, but also Central’s talented safeties Jackson Finch and Jared Rice.
“They had very good schemes,” said Hilmar receiver Tyler Robinson. “We would call our route and their safeties did a great job of basically killing our route out there. That forced (O’Brien) to hold on to the ball longer and that’s why they got a lot of sacks.”
The Yellowjackets did put together a drive on the final drive of the half. O’Brien completed three of four passes on the final drive for 31 yards. He found Orozco for an 8-yard catch that resulted in Hilmar’s first first down with just under a minute left in the second quarter.
After a pass interference call against Central, Robinson hauled in a 16-yard catch on the sideline to help set up a 38-yard field goal by Devon Medeiros that cut the lead to 24-3 heading into the half.
The Yellowjackets started moving the ball better in the second half as they marched down for a touchdown to cut the lead to 24-10 early in the fourth quarter. Hilmar had a shot to cut the lead to one score, but Central Catholic stopped the Yellowjackets on fourth-and-goal when Raiders cornerback Nic Navarro made a great play to deflect an O’Brien pass in the end zone.
The first-half hole was just too big to overcome.
“These kids are a special group of kids,” Marques said. “They never quit. At halftime everyone was focused on fixing the problem. In the second half, offensively we found some things that kept them off balance.”
Sun-Star staff writer Shawn Jansen can be reached at (209) 385-2462 or email@example.com.