Hilmar too much for Strathmore in rematch

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Strathmore held to just 10 yards rushing in first half of 49-0 loss to Yellowjackets in title game

By Patrick Dillon @PDillon_SGN

HILMAR – The Strathmore Spartans faced a Hilmar Yellowjackets team last Saturday in the Division 6AA State Championship who had the thoughts of last season’s play-in game loss in double overtime fresh on their minds. Fueled by revenge and superior athleticism Hilmar handed Strathmore only their third loss in three years in a 49-0 rout on Friday night, Dec. 15.

“[Hilmar] matched every advantage that we’ve had this year,” Strathmore head coach Jeromy Blackwell said. “We had three things we needed to do in order to win, and we didn’t do those things. They just outmuscled us.”
It was evident when both teams took the field Hilmar (13-2, 5-1) had the larger, girthier players. The size difference was so great it looked as if Strathmore (13-2, 4-2) was playing a division IV team. The extra work Hilmar had done over the offseason was fueled by thoughts of redemption against the team who had prematurely ended their season.

Javier Gzrcilazo gets gang tackled by five Hilmar defenders during the Division 6AA State Championship game on Saturday, Dec. 15. Patrick Dillon/@PDillon_SGN

Javier Gzrcilazo gets gang tackled by five Hilmar defenders during the Division 6AA State Championship game on Saturday, Dec. 15. Patrick Dillon/@PDillon_SGN

The Turlock Journal reported Hilmar’s Issac Sharp saying, “We didn’t even care about state champs, the only thing we cared about was Strathmore. I mean they beat us in double overtime last year. It ruined our miracle season, so honestly this was redemption.”

Hilmar used their size to beat Strathmore at their own game by establishing a solid rushing attack. On Hilmar’s opening drive they ran the ball eight of the nine plays. Sharp capped off the 70-yard, 2:36 minute drive with a six-yard touchdown run up the right side to put the Yellowjackets on the board 7-0.

Sharp found the end zone again on Hilmar’s third drive on a 12-yard run up the middle for his second touchdown of the first quarter. He finished the game with 14 carries for 81 yards and three touchdowns.

Although, Sharp was the touchdown scorer in Hilmar’s thunder and lightning package, it was the thunder in Justin Rentfro who led the ground game. Rentfro had only 10 carries for 139 yards, but many of those yards were gained after multiple broken tackles.

“It was very difficult for us out there,” said Strathmore linebacker Damian Valencia. “They were bigger than us and we tried our best but they came out on top.”

Rentfro was not only limited to the offensive side of the ball, but made huge impacts on the defensive side from the middle linebacker position. The Hilmar defense held Strathmore to just one trio the red zone and just 86 yards of total offense. Strathmore’s 47 total rushing yards is the lowest they’ve had in more than 10 years.

The lack of rushing yards was a result of the Spartans trying to run straight at a bigger Yellowjackets’ defense which crowded nine men close to the line of scrimmage. On Strathmore’s few outside run attempts the ball carrier was easily ran down. Their inability to spread out Hilmar’s defense came at a price on their third drive.

Strathmore’s leading running back Alonso Acevedo came face-to-face with Rentfro in a jaw-crushing hit. Acevedo was slow to get up and left the game with a concussion. Acevedo finished the game with negative two yards on just five carries to his credit.

“Someone has to step up and run with the flag,” Blackwell said. “Christian Onsurez did the best he could with the talent he has.”

After Acevedo went down Strathmore tried to spread the ball around through the air. They even had Trace Pugh line up at shotgun in order to give him more time, but it was not working. Pugh was sacked four times and barely had enough time to get a pass off most plays. He was taken off his rhythm so much that he and his main target Lee Navarro never got on the same page as most of his passes went high. Pugh finished with 39 yards.

Hilmar’s Treven Crowley on the other hand had no problem connecting Bryan Millan for two touchdowns in the second quarter. Crowley hit Bryan over the middle for a 19-yard score which caused Strathmore’s defense to abandon their run stopping attack in hopes of staving off this new threat. It did not work when Crowley found Bryan over the middle again for a 58-yard touchdown to make it 28-0 at halftime.

This was the first time Strathmore had trailed by such a deficit since the 2014 season when they trailed the Corcoran Panthers 35-7 at halftime and eventually lost 42-14.

Hilmar continued to roll in the third quarter. Both Sharp and Crowley were in on scores in the third quarter. Then in the fourth David Amaral put the final tallies on the board with an eight-yard touchdown with 6:54 left in the game.

Strathmore’s three year run still goes down as one of the best in the state despite the loss. Their third straight state championship bowl game appearance is second best in the modern-day championship system, and this is the third straight season the Spartans have won 13-games. Blackwell believes his program is not finished yet.
“We’ve just got to stick our nose to the grind stone and we’ll be right in the mix of things next season,” Blackwell said.

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