Hilmar football coach Frank Maruqes almost seemed apologetic about winning Friday night’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI semifinal showdown against Trans-Valley League rival Escalon.
The wild, 41-38 victory sends the Yellowjackets into the championship game on Saturday, Nov. 25, against Modesto Christian, a 21-7 winner over top-seeded Bradshaw Christian. But it also sends friend and legendary Escalon coach Mark Loureiro into retirement … long before he wanted to.
“I am really saddened to see that he’s not going to be around anymore,” said Marques, who will be looking for his third section banner at LincolnHigh School. “I’m excited that two TVL teams play in the finals, but it’s just that when you have somebody that’s been so impactful … it’s sad to see him go.”
The winningest head coach in the history of the Sac-Joaquin Section saw his 29-year career come to an end without a ninth championship banner.
“The sun’s coming up tomorrow and I’ve got to find a way to find the sun,” said Loureiro, who owns a 281-69-1 record. “I’m always going to be a football fan. It’s going to be hard coming into this stadium not being the guy. But at the same time, it’ll be good for me and good for my family.”
Hilmar (7-5) scored five times and Escalon (7-5) answered point for point. But the Yellowjackets finally broke the back-and-forth pattern when Bryan Millan booted a 39-yard field goal to make it 41-31 with 4 minutes remaining.
That outcome at that point seemed determined.
But the Cougars scored on their first play of the ensuing drive when Steven Grossi hit Max Nicholas for a 51-yard touchdown pass that cut the gap to three, using up only 15 seconds.
“I think if you’d have asked Frank before the game if he thought 38 points would win the game …” said Loureiro, letting the statement hang in the chilly night air. “I would’ve thought that also.”
The Yellowjackets started their next possession on their own 20 and were nearing midfield when a fumble was recovered by Escalon’s Mark Dehaven at Hilmar’s 43 with 3:02 left.
On second-and-5, running back Jake Lewis appeared to have the corner on a sweep, but Millan chased him down from behind and tackled him in the backfield for a 4-yard loss, bringing up third-and-long. Grossi dropped back, but his pass fell incomplete.
Fourth down … and a career to go.
Loureiro sent in kicker Guillermo Alvarez to attempt a 45-yarder with just under 90 seconds to play. Alvarez had made a 36-yarder in the first quarter and this kick had plenty of leg – it would’ve been good from farther than 50 – but it was wide left by mere inches, setting off a celebration on the Hilmar sideline.
Isaac Sharp had two touchdowns runs and a 92-yard kickoff return for Hilmar, while Estephan Salcedo had a 56-yard pick-six for the Cougars. Escalon’s Nick Deweerd also picked off a pass in the end zone that halted a promising Hilmar drive. That came two plays after the Yellowjackets’ Joao Silveira recovered a fumble on the Cougars’ 21.
“The only way the storybook ending would’ve ended perfectly is if we ran it all the way to the end,” said Loureiro. “I can’t be more proud of my kids and my community.
“I’d even buy a ticket for this and not use my CIF pass.”
Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI
Hilmar 41, Escalon 38
Hilmar 10 14 7 10 – 41
Escalon 3 21 7 7 – 38
H–Bryan Millan 20 FG
E–Guillermo Alvarez 36 FG
H–Gaven Azevedo 1 run (Millan kick)
E–Elliott Mello 4 run (Rodrigo Demelo kick)
H–Isaac Sharp 92 kickoff return (Millan kick)
E–Kaden Christensen 24 pass from Steve Grossi (Demelo kick)
H–Sharp 5 run (Millan kick)
E–Estephan Salcedo 56 interception return (Demelo kick)
H–Carter Azevedo 29 pass from Tristan Crowley
E–Mello 3 run (Demelo kick)
H–Sharp 10 run (Millan kick)
H–Millan 39 FG
E–Max Nicholas 51 pass from Grossi (Demelo kick)
Records: Hilmar 7-5, Escalon 7-5.