The long drive from the South Bay on a hot, steamy bus was well worth the trip for Hilltop.
The Lancers scored on their first possession, then hung on at the end, beating Escondido 26-23 in a nonleague game.
Hilltop (3-3), which runs a hurry-up, no-huddle offense, used three quarterbacks early, including senior receiver Gus Ferreira in a wildcat formation. But it's obvious that Daniel McPherren is the quarterback of this team.
"This is his first year playing quarterback," said Hilltop coach Drew Westling. "He has a good feel for the game.
"What I like, though, is that while he makes mistakes, he doesn't repeat his mistake."
The senior threw for 63, ran for 60 and a pair of scores.
On a night when the multi-talented Ferreira was quiet, speedy running back Jeremiah Rivera ran 28 times for 153 yards.
"He's a lightning bug," Westling said. "Plus, he's the strongest guy on our team. He sat behind two seniors last season, waited his turn. Now he's taking advantage of it."
The Hilltop defense sacked Escondido freshman quarterback Robbie Ramos seven times -- two by Josh Brown and Alejandro Torres -- and forced four turnovers.
Still, Escondido, trailing 26-7 early in the third quarter, made a game of it in the fourth quarter. Ramos drove his team 78 yards and connected with Wesley Huizar on a 23-yard scoring strike and Jake Frankfather's 2-point PAT run made it 26-15 with 6:44 to play.
Still, Hilltop seemed to have the game in hand. But a fumble recovery by Lance DeSorbo with 3:13 to play gave Escondido life.
Ramos quickly found Victor Seneres behind the defense for an 80-yard score and connected with Seneres on a 2-point PAT with 2:29 to play. Hilltop ran the clock down to 39 seconds before punting. Escondido had one last shot, but couldn't get beyond midfield.
"I'm glad we have a bye next week because we have so much to work on," Westling said. "At times, we're our own worst enemy.
"Credit Escondido. They fought hard all night, but we found a way to win."
Frankfather, who was filling in for the injured Kevin Rodriguez, had 18 carries for 131 yards. Ramos completed 11 of 23 passes for 198 yards.