The Sonora and Hilmar football teams play annually, but this attractive matchup typically falls in August, when the stakes are lower and the games are more about growth than titles.
On Friday, the small-school giants renewed their non-league rivalry for a final time. Cash Byington's 71-yard scoring run sealed a 32-9 victory for the Wildcats, who have won six of the last 10 meetings with the Yellowjackets.
Next season, as part of the Sac-Joaquin Section's realignment, the Wildcats leave the Mother Lode League for the Trans-Valley League, turning this tune-up into a true rivalry.
Neither coach was concerned about the implications of realignment. Their focus was on the here and now.
Sonora coach Bryan Craig saluted his group for its second-half performance on the road at McSweeney Field. Sonora led 7-3 at the intermission and then outscored Hilmar 25-6. Brody Speer (19-yard reception) and Declan Gardiner (10-yard run) added touchdowns for the Wildcats, who defeated a TVL team for the second week in a row.
Last week, the Wildcats pummelled Ripon, 43-0.
“We were playing bad in the first half and they were playing really well,” said Sonora head coach Bryan Craig. “We capitalized on a couple mistakes and were able to flip the momentum.”
The road doesn't get any easier for Hilmar, who searches for a bounceback victory against Atwater. Caden Bailey notched the Yellowjackets' only touchdown with a 9-yard run in the fourth quarter.
“We’ve just got to make sure that we rebound against Atwater next week,” said Hilmar head coach Frank Marques. “Atwater’s a good team. We don’t have the luxury of playing a weak opponent to get well.”