For one of the few times in the past three years, there was no right button to push for Strathmore High football coach Jeromy Blackwell.
There was no winning play he could draw up in the sand.
The Spartans just ran into a superior opponent in Saturday night’s CIF State 6-AA championship game.
The final score on the scoreboard at McSweeney Field said as much: Hilmar 49, Strathmore 0.
The Spartans’ bid for back-to-back state championships fell short.
“I think we were outclassed,” Blackwell said. “They were bigger, faster and stronger than us. You could tell that team took the weight room seriously during the off-season.”
It was in the weight room where Hilmar coach Frank Marques had written the final score of last year’s Northern California Regional play-in game won by Strathmore 53-52 in double overtime.
The Yellowjackets (13-2) had been waiting for over a year to get another shot at the Spartans (13-2) after letting a 12-point lead slip away in the final 8 minutes last year.
This time, Hilmar never took the foot off the pedal as the Yellowjackets captured their first state championship in school history.
Isaac Sharp ignited the onslaught with two first-quarter touchdowns, scoring on runs of 6 and 12 yards to give the Yellowjackets a 14-0 lead with 1:33 left in the first quarter.
Sharp scored three touchdowns and finished with 83 yards on 15 carries. His backfield mate Justin Rentfro pounded his way for 133 yards on 11 carries.
“What weapons those two guys are, it’s just amazing,” Marques said. “I’m really proud of our offensive line. They’ve done a great job for us.”
Hilmar quarterback Treven Crowley added three touchdown passes.
The Yellowjackets outgained Strathmore 267 yards to 60 in the first half.
It didn’t help that the Spartans lost their top offensive weapon in running back Alonso Acevedo to a possible concussion on Strathmore’s third drive when he collided with Rentfro. Acevedo rushed for 1,799 yards and 33 touchdowns this season.
The second half served as a coronation for the new state champs as Hilmar built a 42-0 lead by the end of the third quarter. The fourth quarter was played with a running clock.
It was an emotional ending for Hilmar, as players hugged, cried and celebrated on their home field one last time.
On the other side of the field, Strathmore players were dealing with their own emotions. It’s a program that isn’t used to losing after compiling a 43-3 record the last three seasons.
“Our guys gave a remarkable effort,” Blackwell said. “They didn’t beat the fight out of the dog. They’re just a better football team. If they played in our section, they’d be a really good Division IV team.”