HILMAR — Frank Marques wrapped up his 100th career victory as head coach at Hilmar High with a 28-14 Trans-Valley League win over Escalon on Friday at Eugene McSweeney Field.
But Marques didn't want to talk about the milestone at least, not until he mentioned something else first.
"In all honesty, our goal at the beginning of the season was to win the TVL title," said Marques, whose team improves to 9-0 overall and 5-0 in conference. "Since we've done that now, I can say that getting win No. 100 against Escalon and Coach (Mark) Loureiro means a lot because he's such a class act. We've been battling for the last 11 years, and wins against him don't come easy."
Despite the 14-point final margin, Friday's win didn't come easy either.
With the game tied 7-7 in the second quarter, Yellowjackets QB Jonathan O'Brien hooked up with Kenny Camden for a 45-yard strike to the 7. But the Cougars' defense stiffened and forced Hilmar to attempt a 33-yard field goal.
Devon Medeiros' kick was wide left, but Escalon was flagged for roughing the kicker.
"I'll be honest, I was begging for the running-into-the-kicker penalty," said Loureiro of the less-severe infraction, which would not have resulted in an automatic first down for Hilmar. "It definitely changed the game we made a good stand, and it's still 7-7.
"But you can't give good teams extra shots in the red zone. Championship teams capitalize on those kinds of mistakes."
Trent Orosco made the Cougars pay for the mistake, scoring on an 8-yard burst. Medeiros' PAT made it 14-7 with 10:27 left in the half.
The Cougars were forced to punt on their next possession, and on the Yellowjackets' first play of the ensuing drive, O'Brien broke free for a 45-yard TD scamper.
Hilmar led at the break 21-7.
Despite the cozy lead, there was nothing comfortable about it for O'Brien, who faced stiff pressure all night from Escalon's front four especially from Colin Strasser and Clayton Akers, who spent a good chunk of the evening in Hilmar's backfield.
"They have an awesome defensive line," said O'Brien, who completed six of 10 passes for 133 yards and ran 11 times for 77. "And they had a bye week last week to prepare for us."
Escalon's gameplan was to chew up the clock with time-consuming drives to keep Hilmar's offense off the field. After falling behind 7-0 when Hilmar's Joseph Bello dove into the end zone from the 1 with 9:32 to play in the first quarter, Escalon used nearly 9 minutes before drawing even on a 1-yard TD pass from Ben Hood to Tyler Lawrence on fourth-and-goal.
"That's what we had to do," said Loureiro. "We had to have drives of eight or nine minutes.
"But once you get behind by a couple of scores, it forces you out of your gameplan."
Which is exactly what happened in the second quarter.
"This was not a 28-14 game," said Marques, indicating it was closer than the final score would lead one to believe. "And I don't think this Escalon team is done making noise."
O'Brien found Tyler Robinson on a 12-yard strike with 5:40 to play for Hilmar's biggest lead of the night. Hood found Wesley Dick from 8 yards out for the game's final score.