The Hilmar High and Stone Ridge Christian football teams know their semifinal opponents very well. Both teams are trying to avenge a loss from earlier this season.
Hilmar (6-5) will head to No. 2 Escalon (7-4) for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI semifinals. The Cougars defeated No. 6 Hilmar 28-14 on Oct. 6.
No. 3 Stone Ridge Christian (10-1) travels to No. 2 Ripon Christian (6-4). Stone Ridge Christian lost 35-6 to RC on Sept. 1.
Both games are scheduled to start at 7 p.m.
“I think we cleaned a lot of things that plagued us that early in the season,” said Stone Ridge Christina coach Mark Gutierrez. “We feel we can match up with them. We made a lot of mistakes in that game.”
Yellowjackets coach Frank Marques has described his team as a Jeckyll and Hyde team. One week Hilmar will look great and the next week they can’t get out of their way.
Last week was a good week as Hilmar crushed Summerville 47-3 as Isaac Sharpe rushed for 139 yards and two touchdowns.
“By far that was our best performance,” Marques said. “There was no pressure on us. We just went out and played. It was like we had one more chance at life.”
Marques says the Yellowjackets have been boosted by sophomore postseason call-ups. Willam Sousa was called up from the junior varsity game after the regular season and started at linebacker for Hilmar last week and recorded 10 tackles and recorded an interception. Fellow call-up Treven Crowley also picked off a pass for Hilmar at safety against Summerville.
“It helped having the sophomores we brought up,” said Marques. “We started a sophomore at linebacker. Two of our sophomores got interceptions. It’s brought new life at practice. It’s made our scout team better.”
Stone Ridge Christian will have its hands full trying to slow down the Ripon Christian offense and running back Michael Kamps. The junior rushed for 119 yards and two touchdowns in the first matchup against SRC.
“They do a lot of things really well and their running back is really good,” Gutierrez said. “Their offensive line is pretty big and athletic. Their quarterback makes pretty good throws. You can’t commit to just one thing against them.”
With a 43-8 record the past four seasons, SRC has won more football games than any program in Merced County during that time. However, the Ripon Christian has been a constant thorn in the side. Stone Ridge Christian is 1-3 against RC the last four years and 1-6 the past seven meetings.
“One thing we talk about is us improving and not focusing on the opponent,” Gutierrez said. “They are definitely a challenge, no doubt. But with the experience we have, most of our kids are 1-1 against them. Ripon Christian got the win this year and they got the win last year. For many of them this is the rubber match.”
The Hilmar game will also mark an end of an era with this being the last season for Escalon coach Mark Loureiro, who is the all-time winningest coach in Sac-Joaquin Section history.
“I’ve been coaching against coach Loureiro for 15 years,” Marques said. “He’s a real class act. It’s been a great rivalry. Every time it’s a great game. I’m going to miss that rivalry and I’m going to miss him. At the same time we’re there to win a football game.”