Turlock defensive end Devin Bradley celebrates a stop by the Bulldogs' defense during a season-opening win over Freedom of Oakley on Aug. 23, 2019. The Bulldogs return home to face another Bulldog this Thursday -- Tracy High, its annual Dogbone rival. (Samantha Schmidt)

Hilmar takes first step toward a third consecutive section banner with rout of Bear River

Joe Cortez
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HILMAR — Over the past two seasons, Hilmar High has won eight of nine playoff games — the lone loss was by a single point in double overtime — two Sac-Joaquin Section titles and the school’s first-ever state championship.\Well, it’s November once again, and second-seeded Hilmar put the Division VI playoff field on notice with a convincing 49-17 victory over Bear River on Friday night at McSweeney Field.

Well, it’s November once again, and second-seeded Hilmar put the Division VI playoff field on notice with a convincing 49-17 victory over Bear River on Friday night at McSweeney Field.

Once again, the Yellowjackets (10-1) look poised to make a long postseason run.

The Bruins aren’t your typical No. 7 seed, having won two section championships since 2014 and reaching the title game four times in that span, including last season.

In fact, Hilmar coach Frank Marques got a text from former Hilmar coach Jerry Van Lengen about these Bruins.

“Coach Van Lengen texted me this morning and said, ‘Hey, you’re facing a really quality program.’ I knew I was. … That’s a good feather in your cap to beat a team like that, a really good team.”

And so is Hilmar.

“We did a great job defensively, preparing for their multiple fronts,” said Maruqes. “And then, offensively, Seth (Miguel) had a great game. He went off.”

The junior quarterback completed 14 of 16 passes for 311 yards and five touchdown passes — he had another two TD tosses nullified by penalties — with no interceptions. He completed 11 of 11 passes in the regular-season finale against Livingston for 265 yards, three TDs and no picks, giving him 25 completions in his last 27 attempts for 576 yards and eight TDs.

“My teammates have been really helping me out,” said Miguel, who wasn’t the projected starter when summer practices started, but was thrust into the role when senior Treven Crowley opted to skip the season after committing to play baseball at Fresno State. “They really accepted me, like I said before. I came in, filled in, they accepted me, like I said, and we just rolled with the punches.”

Now, Hilmar will take on No. 3 Ripon Christian in a rematch of last year’s D-VI championship game — 57-14.

Ripon Christian will be trying to shake of the proverbial ring rust. After a first-round bye, the Knights did not play Friday night after Calaveras was forced to forfeit for using an ineligible player the week before. When RC and Hilmar meet, it will be three weeks since the Knights last played a game.

In other first-round games involving teams in the Front.Row region:

Division I

No. 2 Oak Ridge 24, No. 7 Turlock 14, at El Dorado Hills — For the second consecutive year, the Bulldogs' season ends at Oak Ridge. Turlock was within a touchdown in the fourth quarter, but a field goal by the Trojans put the game out of reach.

Division III

No. 3 Buhach Colony, 45, No. 6 Roseville 27, at Atwater — The Thunder remained perfect on the season and will travel next to take on No. 2 Placer.

No. 4 Manteeca, 39, No. 5 Vista del Lago 35, at Manteca — The Buffaloes sacred in the final minute to save their season and will next face top-seeded Capital Christian.

Division IV

No. 7 Patterson at No. 2 Oakdale, 67-21, at Oakdale — The Mustangs dispatched one member of the Central California Conference and will get another next week when Merced comes to The Corral.

No. 6 Merced 38, at No. 3 Casa Roble 26, at Orangevale — The Bears scored 32 points in the second half, overcoming a 20-6 halftime deficit en route to the upset of the Rams.

No. 4 Sierra 63, No. 5 Atwater 14, at Manteca — Junior running back Kimoni Stanley rushed for more than 200 yards.and the Timberwolves' defense forced six turnovers. Over the past three games, Sierra has outscored its foes 194-29 but things get tougher next week against No. 1 Rio Linda.

Division V

No. 2 Ripon 41, No. 10 Foothill 7

No. 3 Amador 17, No. 6 Rosemont

No. 4 Bradshaw Christian 42, No. 2 Los Banos 13

Division VI

No. 1 Escalon, 21, No. 9 Hughson 6, at Escalon — The Cougars will next face Sonora, which they beat 35-13 on Sept. 6 in Escalon.

No. 5 Sonora at No. 4 Golden Sierra, 56-9, at Garden Valley — The Wildcats have five losses this season, all to teams that are still alive in the postseason (Oakdale, Ripon, Escalon, Hilmar, Amador), which means they're battle tested.

No. 2 Hilmar, 49, No. 7 Bear River 17, at Hilmar — Hilmar is the two-time defending section champion.

No. 3 Ripon Christian 2, No. 6 Calaveras 0 — Calaveras was forced to forfeit for using an ineligible player in a 56-13 win over Western Sierra Collegiate Academy, meaning it will be three weeks since RC last took the field when it faces Hilmar on Friday.

Division VII

No. 1 Denair 21, No. 4 Le Grand 14, at Denair — The Coyotes beat Southern League rival for the second time this season in another close game. Denair won 20-12 in the regular-season matchup.

No. 2 Mariposa, 52, No. 6 Vacaville Christian 27, at Mariposa — The Grizzlies, who lost to Denair 14-13 in the regular season, are searching for their first appearance in a section final since 1996 and their first title since 1995 when Bruce Vegley was the coach.