Hilmar High School’s defense, down three starters to injuries and spending most of the second half on the field against a grueling Sonora ground attack, ran out of gas in overtime Friday night.
Sonora quarterback Sam Page took advantage: On the Wildcats second play in OT, the junior pulled the ball back in on a fake handoff and followed his line into the end zone for the winning score in a wild 30-27 road victory against the Yellowjackets.
“Heck of a game,” Hilmar quarterback Jonathen O’Brien said. “Yeah, it’s a last-second loss and that stings. But given how we fought against a good Sonora team, I couldn’t be prouder of my team right now.
“We’re a young group that’s still learning. But the strides we made from last week to this one were huge.”
O’Brien (209 passing yards) certainly did everything he could to avoid overtime.
The senior had a near flawless first half, completing 11 of 12 passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns. He made an interception in his first career start at safety as the Yellowjackets went into intermission with a 17-0 lead.
The second half was a different story as Sonora stormed back with 19 unanswered points.
O’Brien’s 16-yard touchdown pass to Hudson Harris with 4:13 to play gave Hilmar (1-2) a 24-19 lead.
The Yellowjackets defense nearly sealed the win by forcing Page to fumble at the Hilmar 4-yard line with just over 1:30 to play.
Harris was tackled in the end zone, however, for a safety and the Wildcats got the ball back with 1:21 to play and a three-point deficit.
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Starting at its 33, Sonora drove back into ’Jacket territory and Billy Kuriluk drilled a tying 35-yard field goal with six seconds left to force overtime.
“We came into the game thin anyway,” Hilmar coach Frank Marques said. “We lost one of our key guys to a concussion early and then just started to drop like flies after that.
“We came up a little short on bodies in the end, but I don’t know if I’ve ever been prouder of a team’s effort. From last week to this one, they answered the bell.”
Hilmar got the ball first in overtime but after two drops in the end zone, opted for a Steven Cardoso field goal to make it 27-24.
Sonora, which only managed 44 yards on 14 plays in the first half, dominated the ground in the second half behind Kuriluk (14 carries, 112 yards) and Page (15 carries, 120).
Page finished the Wildcats by plunging into the end zone from 6 yards.
“We had our chances,” O’Brien said. “A couple balls that we maybe could have caught in overtime. You have to give Sonora credit. They played to the very last minute and got the win.”
This story was originally published September 13, 2014 12:00 AM.