HILMAR – It was a situation that every high school quarterback dreams of.
Down by six points. One minute on the clock. The CIF Sac-Joaquin Division VI Section title game berth on the line.
But when a misfired snap bobbled off of the hands of Ripon Christian quarterback Travis Zuidervaart and went careening to his left – just three plays after he completed a 33-yard pass to keep the Knights’ dreams alive – all of the air went out of the visitors’ stands.
Hilmar recovered, and they downed the ball on the next play to grind out a 34-28 victory over a team that nobody ever gave a chance on paper.
“Missed opportunities. Missed opportunities. I was telling my boys that nobody in this valley thought that we had a chance to come in here and battle these guys like we did, except us – except the guys in the white jerseys and the guys loving and caring about them,” Knights coach Trey Ozenbaugh said “Extremely proud of my group. We don’t have a lot of depth, but I’m extremely proud of them and congratulations to Hilmar – they’re a quality program and we knew that coming in.”
The Knights struck fast in the contest when Connor McGovern picked off a pass from Hilmar’s Daniel Texeira and set up a two-play drive for the game’s first score when Derek Dotinga rumbled in from 7-yards out.
But Hilmar answered back quickly when Texeira threw a 43-yard touchdown strike to Joshua Lee Jennings to tie the score, and followed that up with a 3-yard touchdown run from Cody Rentfro. A second Texeira touchdown gave Hilmar a 20-7 lead.
Ripon Christian, however, didn’t want to go back into the locker room at halftime down, so it rebounded to score a pair of touchdowns – a Zuidervaart pass to Ty Beidleman at the end of the first quarter and another to Derek Dotinga at the end of the second quarter – to hold a 21-20 lead at the break.
Then it was a stalemate.
Neither team scored in the third quarter, and when Hilmar retook the lead with 5:21 left to play in the game, the Knights answered back with a four-play, 65-yard drive to knot the game with 4:13 left in the game.
A costly Zuidervaart interception set-up a two-play, 27-yard go-ahead drive for Hilmar ended up being the last points scored in the game. Ripon Christian was flagged on the ensuing drive for holding, which brought them back to the 11-yard line, but Zuidervaart completed a pair of passes that took them to just over the midfield stripe when the awkward shotgun exchange got away and Rentfro ended up with the ball, sealing the victory.
“We knew that 80 (Alex Chavez) was their go-to guy and we did a great job bracketing him – I think that he had maybe one or two decent catches so that was a great play call,” Ozenbaugh said. “They got what they got when they needed it and we didn’t so my hat is off to Hilmar.”