HILMAR – Nick Price shouted until his voice went hoarse, imploring his defense to come up with one last stop.
With less than two minutes left in the game, Ripon High’s 21-game regular-season winning streak and the inside track to the Trans-Valley League crown hung in the balance.
“We’re still in this,” cheered the sophomore quarterback during a break in the action. “One more play. We’re still in this.”
On this night, and for the first time all season, Price was wrong.
Hilmar rattled off 28 unanswered points to start the game and the Yellowjackets’ defense sacked Price seven times en route to a 33-21 victory.
It was the Indians’ first regular-season loss since a 31-14 decision to Escalon on Oct. 7, 2011.
This one was all but over at the half.
Hilmar quarterback Jonathan O’Brien and No. 1 target Tyler Robinson shredded Ripon’s much-ballyhooed defense, turning this battle of Trans-Valley titans into a laugher early.
O’Brien was electric at the start, throwing for 210 yards in the first half on 10-of-14 passing, connecting with Robinson on touchdowns of 9 and 60 yards as Hilmar surged out to a 31-7 lead.
Robinson, a fleet-footed, sure-handed talent, had five catches for 155 yards in the first half.
He also picked off Price’s first pass, setting up one of two rushing scores by O’Brien.
After feeling each other out on the first few possessions, the Yellowjackets’ offense caught fire — and stayed white-hot until the halftime whistle.
O’Brien hit Robinson on a 9-yard slant to make it 7-0 at the end of the first quarter, beginning a run of 28 unanswered points.
O’Brien would stretch the lead to 21-0 with back-to-back read option carries from 13 and 12 yards. Both scores were set up by the defense, which collected an interception and fumble.
Robinson struck again with 5:45 left in the half, stepping inside his defender for a bubble screen and racing away for the 60-yard score.
Devon Medeiros capped the scoring with a booming 42-yard field goal with four seconds left in the half.
Ripon’s only score — a 10-yard run by Ryan Fugit — was a gift from Robinson, who fumbled the punt at his own 22.
Fugit took a pitch from Price and barreled up the sideline, slipping between two tacklers at the 2 to give the visiting side reason to cheer.
Make no mistake, the first half was an exhibition of Hilmar football.
The Yellowjackets tripled the Indians’ offensive production, piling up 251 yards while yielding just 81.
Ripon (3-1 TVL, 7-1) rallied late as the Hilmar rushing attack struggled to run out the clock.
Price floated a 26-yard pass to a streaking Claudio Santos on the first offensive play of the fourth quarter to make it 31-14.
Bradley Clark (four catches, 83 yards) would make it a two-possession game, 31-21, on Ripon’s ensuing possession.
The senior wide receiver elevated above a pack of Hilmar DBs in the back of the enzone, pulling down Price’s throw with 4 minutes, 28 seconds left in the game.
Ripon attempted an onside kick, but the ball was covered up by Hilmar’s Jacob Smith.
The Indians would get another chance. With Price cheering his team from the sideline, Ripon forced a punt with a 1:25 left.
However, the Yellowjackets’ pressure would ensure victory. David Bisby sacked Price in the end zone with just over a minute left.
Bisby finished with two sacks, spearheading a unit that limited Michael Ysit to 4 yards on four carries.
Price was 11 of 20 for 151 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
The loss knocks Ripon from the top of the TVL standings, but it didn’t eliminate them from the TVL chase.
Hilmar (4-0, 8-0) still has to play traditional power Escalon and preseason favorite Hughson, while Ripon finishes with Orestimba and Riverbank, who had three collective wins entering Friday’s games.