Hilmar High senior quarterback Tristan Crowley is questionable for Friday's clash at Sonora, a highly-anticipated showdown of two former No. 1 teams.
Crowley, the left-handed maestro in the Yellowjackets' Spread offense, left last week's loss to Gustine during the opening possession with a severely sprained ankle and did not return.
Not that it would have mattered.
Coach Frank Marques said Gustine, led by running back Oliver Perez, was simply the better side in a 30-24 victory. Perez rushed for 306 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries, setting in motion a stunning defeat of The Bee's top-ranked small-school team and the two-time defending Trans-Valley League champions.
Crowley completed one pass for 5 yards. He also had three carries for 14 yards.
"He got tackled," Marques said of Crowley, who isn't expected to return to practice until Wednesday. "It was a clean hit. He just got rolled up on.
"It didn't (impact the game). Gustine just outplayed us. I won't use Tristan as an excuse for the loss. They're good. The real question is how good are we? They were better than us on Friday night. They legitimately beat us. It wasn't because of Tristan. We got our butts kicked."
Marques shouldered the blame for the loss. He said his team wasn't prepared to play Gustine, now 2-0 under first-year coach Ronnie Labry.
"Ultimately, it comes down to me," said Marques, who is 127-42 in 14 seasons. "I didn't prepare the team well enough. I didn't do my job correctly. We'll get better at it."
Crowley was replaced by junior Ryan Teixeira, the younger brother of former Hilmar signal-caller Daniel Teixeira, who led the Yellowjackets to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI final in 2015.
Ryan Teixeira engineered four scoring drives against Gustine, but his lack of reps with the first team was apparent. He completed 8 of his 22 passes, a completion percentage of just 35.4 percent, with one interception.
When he did connect, though, they were chunk plays. He averaged 16.1 yards per completion with a touchdown pass to Gaven Azevedo (six receptions, 93 yards).
"Teixeira did a nice job. He needed to do what he needed to do," Marques said. "It wasn't like he did anything wrong. I want to be clear with that. Gustine was just the better team."
Teixeira should benefit from the extra reps in practice this week. Marques held Crowley out of Monday and Tuesday's workouts to allow his ankle to heal. It also gave Teixeira a chance to build a stronger rapport with the first team.
"Tristan has got most of the snaps," Marques said. "He has a little more feel for the wide receivers and the game plan, because he gets a majority of those snaps. So there is a little drop off. I'm going to let him rest. Tex will get most of those reps and we'll see how it goes from there."
No. 3 Hilmar (2-1) has lost its last three games to fourth-ranked Sonora (1-2), the three-time defending Mother Lode League champion, but all three have been close.
In 2014, Sonora needed overtime to squeeze out a 30-27 victory. One year later, the Wildcats escaped Hilmar with a 36-35 victory. Last fall, Sonora won, 37-27.
"It doesn't matter who the opponent is," Marques said. "It doesn't matter if it is Sonora or Gustine, we have to prepare the same. The opponent doesn't matter. The fact that we do have Sonora, though, it's a big challenge. We'll be prepared to play the football game on Friday."
The showdown has lost some of its buzz after Sonora and Hilmar debut at Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, in The Bee's preseason power rankings. The Wildcats tumbled from that top spot with losses in their first two games and have underwhelmed defensively, yielding nearly 36 points per game.
Sonora snapped its three-game slide, dating back to last season, with a 48-33 victory at Ripon. That game was marked by the return of senior Kane Rodgers, The Bee's top returning player. Rodgers was suspended for one game after being ejected from a season-opening loss to Oakdale.
"Their problems have been injuries and discipline issues," Marques said., "When they have everyone back, they are a very good, very sound football team. We'll have to be on our 'A' game when we play them. Can we play with them? Absolutely."
To contact reporter James Burns, email email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter @jburns1980.