Hughson @ Hilmar
Hughson comes up just short against Hilmar after officials rule two-point try no good

Even before David Burns bulled his way across the goal line to pull Hughson within a point of Hilmar with 47 seconds left Friday night, Shaun King had already made up his mind to go for two points and try to win the game. When he called timeout to talk with his offense, all the players agreed.

King knew exactly which play he would run. It’s known as “Ivan right,” named after 6-foot-2, 270-pound defensive lineman Ivan Flores, who joins the offense just for such a short-yardage situation. Flores lines up as a wingback on the left, then goes in motion to the right. His job is to blast an opening off right tackle, allowing Burns to follow him into the end zone. That’s what appeared to happen Friday.

Instead, the Fresno-based officiating crew – after a lengthy discussion as the coaches, players and fans waited anxiously – ruled Burns was stopped inches short of the goal line.

The result was a 24-23 Hilmar victory, one that left King and the Hughson faithful disappointed.

“They must have discussed it for 20 or 30 seconds. No one wanted to make the call,” said King, who thought it was obvious that Burns was over the goal line. “The entire pile of players was in the end zone and he was in the pile.”

The unsatisfying ending overshadowed a furious fourth-quarter rally by Hughson that saw the Huskies score twice in the final 10 minutes after falling behind 24-10.

Junior quarterback Robert McDaniel found Malakai Sumter for an 82-yard touchdown pass to begin the comeback. After an exchange of punts, Hughson got the ball back with 2 minutes, 30 seconds to play on its own 10-yard line. In less than 2 minutes, McDaniel led the Huskies to the end zone again with Burns scoring from two yards out to set up the fateful finish.

The loss dropped Hughson to 6-3 overall and 2-2 in the Trans-Valley League. The Huskies’ three losses have come by a total of 14 points, a fact that makes King shake his head.

“Three losses by 14 points. That’s insane,” he said. “We’re a pretty stinking good football team.”

Hughson has one regular-season game left – this Friday night at Ripon – before it can try to defend the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI championship it won last year on its way to the State Division 5AA title.

Ripon (3-6, 1-3) is coming off a 40-7 loss to TVL champion Escalon, but King expects the Indians to put up a good fight.

“Ripon’s got a lot to play for,” King said. “It’s Senior Night. If they win, they’re in the playoffs. If they lose, they’re out. They have a lot of motivation.”

Hughson will be without one of its key offensive weapons against Ripon. Running back Alex Villarreal – who had 55 yards and a touchdown against Hilmar – has a grade 1 hamstring strain and is expected to miss at least two weeks, King said.

A win this week by Hughson likely would lock up no worse than the No. 4 seed for the Huskies. That’s a big deal because it would mean a bye in the first round of the 12-team tournament and guarantee at least one home game.

A year ago, Hughson fell to Hilmar in the next-to-last game of the regular season … and then never lost again, ripping off six straight victories enroute to the Section and State titles. Could history repeat itself? King and his players believe so.

“We still have some of last year’s magic,” King said. “We have so many seniors who were with us on the run last year. They know we’re on the same path.”

One of those players – David Delgado – spoke to his teammates on the field after the Hilmar loss.

“It was very emotional,” King said. “He reminded everyone that we’re in the same boat as last year.