STOCKTON -- Hilmar is ready to stand up to the bully. Again.
Frank Marques' boys know all about the Central Catholic mystique.
They know how the Modesto private school has won seven straight Sac-Joaquin Section titles.
Still, Marques doesn't consider this your typical David vs. Goliath matchup.
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Hilmar (11-1) is making the trip to Stockton today armed with more than just a sling-shot and a couple pebbles.
"Our kids believe," Marques said. "Last time, they found out about the aura of Central Catholic.
"They learned they could hit with them and play with them.
"We're very confident. We feel we have a legitimate shot of winning the game.
"And we don't think it will be a miracle if we do win."
At stake today is the Division V championship.
Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. at the University of the Pacific.
It's Hilmar's first section title game since star quarterback Nathan Costa carried his team there in 2005.
"The last time, we had one really great athlete," Marques said of Costa, now a quarterback at the University of Oregon. "This group is a great team with no real superstars.
"Every week somebody different steps up. It was a lot of fun coaching a super athlete and it's been a lot of fun coaching a super team."
Hilmar will try to keep a potent Central Catholic offense off the field with its strong running game.
Hugh Ewing has been on fire in recent weeks and comes into today's game with 1,062 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Quarterback Quinton McCown has also played well since returning from a broken collarbone.
Hilmar's stingy defense will be tested.
Marques expects Central Catholic's star receiver James Orth to play. Orth injured his ankle early in last week's win over Escalon and didn't return.
The 6-foot-3 senior leads the team with 805 receiving yards and nine touchdowns.
"What are they going to save his ankle for? He's going to play," Marques said.
Central Catholic quarterback Dylan Swartz has passed for 1,897 yards and 22 touchdowns.
"We have to keep pressuring him from different places," Marques said. "We have to get after him.
"If you sit back in coverage, he'll pick you apart. We're going to have to gamble."
Hopefully, the gamble will pay off with Hilmar's first section title since 1989.
"This is a special team," Marques said. "To be with them for 13 weeks has been awesome.
"If we can walk away with that blue banner, this town will go crazy."
Shawn Jansen is a Sun-Star sports reporter. He can be reached at 385-2462 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.