The inaugural Modesto Kickoff Classic delivered an entertaining opener between Beyer and Hilmar, one decided by one of football’s basic difference-makers — turnovers.
The Yellowjackets’ 6-foot-3 senior Daniel Greenleaf pulled down his third interception with 27 seconds left Friday night — the fourth pick tossed by the Patriots — to seal Hilmar’s hard-earned 17-14 win.
Look it up in the football textbook — when one team turns it over five times to the opponents’ zero, the team with zero wins.
And so it went this warm evening at Chuck Hughes Stadium. Hilmar quarterback Andrew Olson skipped 10 yards through the middle of the Beyer defense for the game-winning touchdown with 9:52 left.
The Patriots, winless since the 2009 opener, walked slowly off the field despite a spirited effort. Rich Alkire dropped his debut as head coach, a painful game in that it was winnable — until you figure in the turnovers.
Other than the pass thefts, Beyer quarterback Justin Usiak completed 17 of 32 passes of 226 passes. It won’t be easy, however, to forget the interceptions.
“We’re not very far away, guys,” Alkire told his team in the tight quarters of the Downey locker room later. “We’ve got to get a lot better from the coaching staff to the players.”
At one level, it’s tempting to summarize the small-schools power with the winning mentality outlasted the large-schools program trying to establish itself. But the outcome had nothing to with school size or pedigree. Hilmar’s avoidance of mistakes, compounded with Beyer’s propensity to error, dictated the outcome.
“So many penalties and mistakes. We have a lot to work on,” said Hilmar coach Frank Marques, whose team survived in its first matchup in recent memory against a Division 1 school. “Beyer played very hard for four quarters.”
Beyer rallied in the second quarter for a 14-7 lead, thanks to Maury Moore’s catch of a 23-yard pass from Usiak and a 1-yard scamper to the outside by McKay Marshall.
Hilmar answered with a 26-yard field goal by Kurtis Bettencourt in the final seconds of the first half. The Yellowjackets used that field goal to stay close and then they held on while Beyer blew chances in the third quarter.
The Patriots reached the Hilmar 13 before Greenleaf jarred the ball loose from Moore and Austin Almeida recovered.
Minutes later on a fourth-and-1 from the 14, Moore was pushed behind the line of scrimmage for a loss.
Until that point, Beyer built a 15-4 advantage in first downs but only a 14-10 lead. Thus encouraged, the Yellowjackets marched 80 yards in eight plays leading to Olson’s scamper.
Hilmar also overcame a block-in-the-back that negated Isaac Diaz’s 95-yard kickoff return to open the second half. But its trip to Modesto ultimately turned successful.
“We were so ecstatic," Greenleaf said. "We just had to fight through it.”
Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at 578-2302.