It’s a familiar final two.
Escalon and Hilmar will do battle in the Sac-Joaquin Section football championship, vying for the Division 5 title on Saturday, Nov. 27.
Game time is 6 p.m. at St. Mary’s High School in Stockton.
Top seed Escalon defeated No. 5 Ripon, 34-10, in the semifinal on Friday, Nov. 19 at Engel Field (See story, photos in Sports, Page A8) while the No. 6 seed Hilmar Yellowjackets stung visiting No. 7 Casa Roble, 41-8.
“We have a lot of respect for the town of Hilmar and for that football program,” said Escalon head coach Andrew Beam.
And the Yellowjackets are familiar, doing battle each season in the Trans-Valley League with the Cougars.
“This could be, like the sixth time we’ve met in the title game since the early 2000’s,” added Beam of the historic rivalry.
Both teams have had plenty of success, Escalon with a slight edge in blue banners, but each with the talent to win it all this season.
“They’re both small dairy, farm towns,” Beam said of the similarities in the communities.
Each has had a successful football program over the years and Beam said the fact that the Division 5 game gets the ‘prime time’ 6 p.m. kickoff over the D4 final on Saturday is testament to how strong the TVL is.
“Our kids are so lucky to be in a league that has the talent, the history of the TVL,” he said.
Escalon won the TVL title outright this season with a perfect 6-0 mark. Hilmar took losses to both Escalon and Ripon during the regular season and Beam said they have fashioned their playoff run into a “revenge tour” as they look to get a victory this time around.
“It’s hard to beat the same team in a season twice,” Beam admitted.
But the Cougars did that when they put away Ripon this past Friday night and he is looking for a similar effort from his players when they head out to Stockton.
EHS Athletic Director Nate Bartelink sent out information regarding ticket prices and, again, they must be purchased online, in advance of the Nov. 27 contest. All tickets must be purchased online through www.gofan.co.
Admission prices are $15 for adults; $12 for seniors, age 60 and above, and military; $8 for students K through 12; children age 5 and under are admitted free.
St. Mary’s High School will also be charging $5 per car for parking. St. Mary’s is at 5648 N. El Dorado St., Stockton.
Cougar players were thrilled with their win over Ripon this past week, but agreed that there is more work to do.
“We won the first two so might as well just keep the three-peat going,” team captain, senior Tyler Medina said of taking down Ripon on the way to the final. “We’ve just got to practice hard, get some good practices in and just get ready for this big TVL match up. I’m excited.”
“It feels good to know that we’re going to play on Thanksgiving and it was a great job by everybody on the football team,” senior kicker Alfonzo Gonzalez said of getting the semifinal win and continuing on for the after-Thanksgiving contest for the blue banner.
“It feels amazing, I couldn’t ask to be with any better people on this team,” said junior Logan Anderson, who is an all-around threat with receptions, rushes and defensively. “We’ve got to make sure our defense is still on key; our defense has done a great job this year … we are a good defense and if our O line can get that push, we’ll be perfectly fine.
Coming up with the final touchdown of the night against Ripon was junior Owen Nash, who said he can’t wait to face off next with the Yellowjackets.
“Playing football on Thanksgiving, that’s what I’ve wanted to do since the start of the season,” said Nash.
The fact that the opponent is rival Hilmar makes it even better.
“Best small school league in the state, by far,” Nash noted of the TVL rivals getting ready to clash. “The game plan is to run right at them.”
Beam said with no school this week, on break for the Thanksgiving holiday, the team will focus on getting in some good practices and staying healthy as they look to bring the Section 5 title home.
“We’re just trusting each other with everything we’ve got and if one man goes down, another’s got to step up,” Medina summarized of what it will take to get past Hilmar. “That’s how a chain link works, if one breaks, another one’s got to come in and be stronger.”