Watching video of East Nicolaus this week, Hilmar head coach Frank Marques feels like he’s watching old Hilmar clips.
The Spartans are a throw-back, ground-and-pound offense, led by a physical offensive line and a pair of 1,000-yard running backs in Gavin McAuliff and JT Stinson.
“They remind me of an old, scrappy, hard-nosed team,” Marques said. “They are like the old Hilmar teams that come after you. They’ll beat your (tail) and then shake your hands afterward.”
Hilmar (11-2) will host East Nicolaus (13-0) in the Northern California 6-AA Championship at Atwater High’s Dave Honey Stadium on Friday night.
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Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
The Spartans have won four consecutive Northern Section championships, reaching the NorCal regional championship four straight years. East Nicolaus won a state championship in 2015, defeating Stone Ridge Christian 34-14 in the NorCal finals along the way. The Spartans have lost to McClymonds out of Oakland in the NorCal championship the last two years.
The Spartans have compiled a 52-4 record in the last four seasons.
“They are well coaches and their kids have bought in with what they do,” Marques said. “They are a team. They play for each other. If we’re fortunate enough to win on Friday night we’re going to have to beat a team, not a bunch of individuals. They know how to fight. They know how to compete.”
East Nicolaus has steamrolled its way to an undefeated record, including a string of six consecutive shutouts this season. The Spartans have outscored their opponents 596 to 78 points this season.
However, East Nicalaus hasn’t faced a team like Hilmar with weapons like Isaac Sharp, Justin Rentfro and Bryan Millan and a defense that can also stifle opponents.
Sharp and Rentfro have combined for 2,303 yards and 33 touchdowns. Millan has scored eight touchdowns combined on the ground and through the air.
“They don’t look like they are going to roll over,” Rentfro said. “We’re going to have to do what we do and do it right.”
Rentfro is looking forward to a smash-mouth, physical style of game.
“Oh yeah,” he said. “I love playing those games. That’s why I love football.”
Friday night’s winner will advance to a state championship game against Strathmore, which defeated Adelanto 28-7 in the Southern California 6-AA championship game last week.
Hilmar lost to Strathmore 53-52 in double-overtime last year in NorCal Regional play-in game last year.
The Yellowjackets are excited for another shot at a run to a state championship.
“It’s one of the pinnacle games of a coaching career,” Marques said. “For a high school coach, it doesn’t get much better than this. The section championships are nice, but fighting for a state championship is a whole new level. It’s every coach’s dream.”