HILMAR -- Frank Marques was hunched over near his 25-yard line, one eye on the Orestimba offense, the other on the scoreboard.
In this moment, with his Hilmar Yellowjackets clinging to a 24-19 lead with a minute to go, one question remained:
Which would run faster the game clock or the Warriors' dynamic star, Steven Machado?
As expected, Machado received the game's biggest touch, an option-pitch to the left. Just when it looked like he had the edge, a first down and maybe even a touchdown
Hilmar's Victor Teixeira dove in for the tackle.
"I got a shoestring," the Hilmar linebacker said.
And the win.
Orestimba quarterback Tanner Pruett threw back-to-back incompletions on third and fourth down, securing Hilmar's emotionally charged 24-19 victory over its West Side neighbor.
The homecoming crowd spilled onto the field as the Yellowjacket players mobbed Marques near the end zone.
It seems every win for Hilmar football is big, and this was no different.
The Yellowjackets (1-1 Trans-Valley League, 5-1 overall) trailed 13-7 after the first quarter, but rode three Trent Orosco touchdowns and a takeaway defense to its fifth win in six games.
"That was a great check for us," said Marques, whose program hasn't lost to Orestimba since 1996.
"Orestimba is a good football team. You don't stop them. You just hope to contain them.
It was a great chess match back and forth."
After a slow start, Machado, the state's third-leading rusher, posted Machado-like numbers: 20 carries, 138 yards and two touchdowns, including a 50-yard dart that pulled Orestimba within five (24-19) in the third quarter.
But the offense flinched in the fourth quarter, committing the game's only two turnovers on Hilmar's side of the field.
"What else can you ask for? We had three opportunities on their side of the field. We just fell short," Orestimba coach Aaron Souza said. "We needed that one clutch play, the one big play. A run, a catch, something."
The loss drops Orestimba (1-1, 5-1), one of the Stanislaus District's best early-season stories, from the ranks of the unbeaten, and leaves the program's playoff hopes in serious jeopardy.
The Warriors need only a win to be eligible for the playoffs, but the meat of its schedule lay ahead, including a date with Escalon next week. The rocky road also includes home dates with Hughson and Ripon, and the regular season finale at Modesto Christian.
"All the easy games are done," Souza said. "These next games are brass-knuckle fights."
Friday's regional rivalry was no pillow fight. Orestimba lacked only the knockout punch in the end.
Machado tried to provide it, as the Hilmar defense loosened in the second half. He rushed for 116 of his yards in the second half, but he was stuck for a loss of 2 on the game's biggest carry.
With Orestimba positioned at the Hilmar 20 with a minute to go, Pruett and Machado jetted left on an option play. Pruett tossed a well-timed pitch to Machado, but he was stopped behind the line of scrimmage just as he planned to turn up field.
Sliding in for the save Teixeira, who also stepped in front of a Pruett pass on the previous possession.
Pruett started hot with a 45-yard touchdown run and 23-yard strike to Machado in the first quarter, but completed just one of his final 13 passes.
The final quarter, Teixeira said, was show-and-prove time.
Who would it be, Machado and Orestimba or an always under-the-wire 'Jackets defense?
He made his point.
"We love" a challenge," Teixeira said. "It makes us play 10 times harder. We're usually the underdogs, but we make it happen when it counts.
"We stepped up tonight. The guys really attacked the outsides. We just had a lot of heart."
For a second, this looked like it might be another runaway victory for Hilmar.
The Yellowjackets scored 17 unanswered points after falling behind 13-7. Orosco had scoring runs of 11 yards and 1 yard following a Devon Medeiros 30-yard field goal, and led 24-13 in the third.