Another view: Placer played championship-caliber football Friday

By: Matthew Kimel, Journal sports editor
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Five keys to Placer’s victory over Hilmar
Turnover battle – The Hillmen forced six turnovers and didn’t give the ball away once. It’s hard really hard to lose with a ratio like that.
Field position – Placer started in Hilmar territory on four of its first six drives. None of Hilmar’s first nine first-half drives started beyond its own 35.
Ground game – Placer’s offensive line made big holes to allow Isaac Brahce and Todd Valliere to run for long touchdowns of 36, 37 and 43 yards.  
Special teams – Dominic Granieri booted a 43-yard FG, executed a successful onside kick, and pinned the Yellowjackets at their own 5 on a punt.
Defensive touchdown – Casey Yunk returned a pick to the house. It’s always a plus when your defense scores more points than the foe’s offense. 



Playing nearly flawless football, Placer rolled to a 59-3 victory over visiting Hilmar Friday night. 
“We were firing on all cylinders,” said center Brian Sabins, one of 10 Hillmen recently named to the all-Pioneer Valley League team. “Everyone got all their blocks — our backs run like beasts. It was Hillmen football.”
It was championship-caliber football.
The top-seeded Hillmen (11-0) won the turnover and field position battles. They dominated at the line scrimmage on both sides of the ball. And they shinned on special teams. 
Their biggest mistake was committing a 15-yard penalty right before halftime with a 45-0 lead in hand, which led to the No. 16 Yellowjackets (6-5) scoring their only points on the day.
“There’s always things to fix,” said Placer coach Joey Montoya. “There’s always things you wish you had back. But, overall a very good night.”
With all three phases of the game clicking, the Hillmen made Hilmar wish it never took the two-hour-plus trek to Auburn for a Sac-Joaquin Section Div. IV playoff game that was over after the first 12 minutes. 
The rout was a perfect pick-me-up for a Placer offense that was struggling to put points on the board in recent weeks during its PVL title run. 
“It’s been too long,” said Todd Valliere, who rushed for three first-half touchdowns. “Our offense finally bounced back. It’s a good feeling.”
Considering the starting unit was needed on the field for only two quarters, it also helped the Hillmen, who will host No. 8 Escalon on the Hill next Friday at 7 p.m., stay fresh. 
“Really fresh,” Valliere said.
When Placer started its opening drive with a three-and-out, it appeared as if the offense might struggle to find the end zone for the fifth straight week. But Placer tacked on 10 points on its next two drives with a 43-yard Dominic Granieri field goal and a 36-yard Valliere TD. 
With the two-score lead, Placer smelt blood in the water. After Casey Yunk’s pick-six helped build a 17-point advantage, the Hillmen went for the jugular and executed a beautiful onside kick. Shortly after the recovery a 36-yard Isaac Brahce burst to the house gave the Hillmen a 24-0 lead in the first quarter.
Placer tacked on another 21 points in the second, and by the start of the third a running clock was in place. 
The game officially ended in two hours, likely quicker than the time it took Hilmar to get home.  
It’s unfortunate, however, that Placer played arguably its best game of the season in front of arguably its smallest home crowd of the year. The decibel level at LeFebvre Stadium was also rather low. 
Perhaps it was due to the three-day weekend or the 44-degree game-time temperature and forecast of thunderstorms. 
Either way, more people should try to make it out to Placer High this Friday and make some noise because the Hillmen seem poised to make some noise themselves.
If they keep playing that same brand of “Hillmen football” we saw Friday, they’re going to run the table in this section field. 
Reach Matthew Kimel at Follow him on Twitter @matthewkimel