While the Hilmar High football team began celebrating Friday's 47-3 trouncing of Summerville long before the final seconds of Friday night's Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI playoff game ticked off the clock, head coach Frank Marques quietly paced the sideline, lost in thought.
"I was in shock," said Marques, now in his 15th season as the Yellowjackets head coach. "I was thinking about what could've happened if we'd played like that all year."
If the Yellowjackets (6-5) had played like that all year, the probably would not have been the No. 6 seed in the eight-team bracket and the the blowout would not be so confounding. Be that as it may, Hilmar advances to the semifinal round, where it will take on Trans-Valley League rival Escalon, a 28-14 winner over the Yellojackets on Oct. 6 in Hilmar. Escalon head coach Mark Louriero, the winningest coach in the history of the section, is retiring after this season.
"If this is Coach Loureiro's last year ... it's been a blast," said Marques, now in his 15th season as head coach at his alma mater. "It's been a great rivalry and he's been a great friend. To go out playing a TVL rival, that could be a storybook ending for him. Or it could continue on."
Marques and his Yellowjackets barely got into the section's field of 78 playoff teams. They had to wait to see if they'd be one of the handful of 5-5 at-large teams to gain entry.
"First of all, this is a credit to the schedule that we play," said Marques, who pointed out that his preseason and league schedules provide an ample number of opponents' victories, the criteria upon which at-large teams are judged, . "Now, everybody is 0-0 and we start with a clean slate."
Hilmar took advantage of that clean slate from the outset against the Bears.
Junior running back Isaac Sharp (15 carries, 139 yards) broke free for a 42-yard run 1 minute and 11 seconds into the contest -- and that is as close it would be the rest of the evening. Joao Silveira scored on a 5-yard run with 6:19 to play in the first quarter, then Bryan Milan booted a 35-yard field goal less than four minutes later. With one second left in the opening stanza, Gaven Azevedo hauled in a perfectly thrown 33-yard pass from Tristan Crowley to make it 23-0.
Crowley would score a TD of his own on a 3-yard keeper in the second quarter, while Sharp added a 26-yard TD to make it 37-3 at the half. Milan took care of all the second-half scoring, booting a 31-yard field goal and sprinting 69 yards for a TD on a botched punt attempt.
Loureiro, whose Cougars (7-4) bested Mariposa 36-6 the night before, was in the bleachers to scout his next opponent. Escalon's win over the Grizzlies was the most competitive of the four first-round games in Division VI. Bradshaw Christian defeated Western Sierra 75-7 and Modesto Christian tagged Gustine 55-21, creating an average margin of victory of 44 points.
The Cougars coach left at halftime, perhaps fed up with the temperatures that dipped into the mid-40s or, maybe, was disturbed by what he saw in the re-energized Yellowjackets.