With his No. 23 jersey torn, Hilmar’s Isaac Sharp wore the No. 24 jersey of teammate Travis Maynard during last week’s win over Escalon. Maynard offered up his jersey because he is sidelined the rest of the season with an injury.
Don’t expect Sharp to patch up his jersey for Saturday’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI championship game against Modesto Christian.
Before the playoffs started, Sharp had already planned on wearing No. 24 if the Yellowjackets reached the title game in honor of Maynard.
“For me, a lot of of these players are brothers to me,” Sharp said. “I feel bad that (Maynard) won’t be able to play with us. I told him, ‘If we make the section title game, I’m going to wear your jersey. If you can’t play, I’ll play for you.’”
Not many people expected Hilmar to reach the championship game after finishing the regular season with a disappointing 5-5 record.
However, the No. 6 seed Yellowjackets (7-5) have caught fire in the playoffs, upsetting No. 3 Summerville 47-3 in the first round and then avenging a loss from earlier in the season with a 41-38 win over No. 2 Escalon in the semifinals last week.
Next up is No. 4 Modesto Christian (7-5) in the championship game at Lincoln High in Stockton. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Saturday.
The Crusaders defeated Hilmar 41-13 on Oct. 20.
“Coach (Frank) Marques told us when we were watching film that next Monday after we found out we made the playoffs that everyone is 0-0 in the playoffs,” Sharp said. “The regular season doesn’t matter. Our past mistakes don’t matter. We’re 0-0 and we have a chance to show everyone what we’ve got.”
Sharp is a big reason why the Yellowjackets have righted the ship in the playoffs.
Against Summerville, Sharp carried the ball 15 times for 139 yards and two touchdowns. The junior running back added 95 yards and two touchdowns on the ground against Escalon last week and returned a kickoff 89 yards for a score against the Cougars.
Marques said Sharp looked even faster on the turf in Summerville.
“He’s got so much speed,” Marques said. “It’s insane how he gets around the edge so fast. Especially when he’s on turf. He looked like a different person against Summerville. Saturday we’re playing on turf.”
In the last four games, Sharp has rushed for 412 yards and four touchdowns to bring his season total to 848 yards and eight touchdowns. As he showed against Escalon, Sharp is a big weapon on special teams. He’s returned three kickoffs for touchdowns this season.
“Confidence is the biggest difference,” Marques said. “He’s just finding his niche in our offense. He had a big game against Ripon (Nov. 3) and took off from there. He’s even got a little swagger to him now. He’s a whole different cat now.”
The Yellowjackets seem to be following his lead.
Hilmar’s offense averaged just under 24 points in the regular season. In the two playoff games the Yellowjackets are averaging 44 points per game.
Quarterback Tristan Crowley has played well, throwing for 271 yards and two touchdowns in the playoffs to go along with 125 yards rushing and another score. Running back Justin Rentfro has added 178 yards and a touchdown on the ground in the two postseason games.
The offensive line has picked up their game.
“Since we played Modesto Christian the first time our team is like night and day different,” Marques said. “It’s like we’ve had two different seasons with the regular season and now the playoffs. Going into the Escalon game we were big underdogs against a team that beat us by two touchdowns last time.
“The way we’ve played the last two weeks we look like a whole different team.”