Sweet Shutout Earns Cougars Share Of TVL Ti­tle

Escalon Times - - SPORTS - By MARG JACK­SON mjack­son@escalon­times.com

Fri­day night had plenty of dis­trac­tions.

Not only was it the fi­nal reg­u­lar home sea­son game for re­tir­ing coach Mark Loureiro – leav­ing the side­lines as head coach af­ter this sea­son is over – but it was also Se­nior Night and the game it­self had ma­jor im­pli­ca­tions.

A win would give Escalon a share of the Trans-Val­ley League crown and a trip to the play­offs.

Put­ting aside all the fan­fare and play­ing in front of a huge crowd that in­cluded plenty of for­mer Cougar play­ers who churned up the grid­iron un­der Loureiro’s guid­ance, the 2017 var­sity foot­ball Cougars put on a show of dom­i­nance over long­time ri­val Hugh­son.

When the clock ex­pired, the home team had thumped the Huskies to the tune of a 48-0 shutout, se­cur­ing a piece of TVL ti­tle and put­ting them­selves in a good play­off po­si­tion. The Cougars will play in Di­vi­sion VI and go in as the num­ber two seed, host­ing a first round game this week.

En­gel Field was rock­ing – the crowd was en­er­gized, the Cougar pride was ev­i­dent and the team that found its iden­tity early in the league cam­paign con­tin­ued to sharpen its skills against an op­po­nent that had no an­swers for their at­tack.

“Man, you couldn’t have asked for any­thing bet­ter,” coach Loureiro ad­mit­ted of the sweet reg­u­lar sea­so­nend­ing vic­tory. “It was a fan­tas­tic game, we got all the kids in­volved, which is some­thing you want to do, and it sends those se­niors out on a high note, win­ning the fi­nal reg­u­lar sea­son game at home.”

Loureiro said he was ex­cited for the team as well, with the huge crowd turn­ing out to show their sup­port, and the pre-game cer­e­monies hon­or­ing him for his years of coach­ing made for a mem­o­rable evening.

“It was great, win­ning the league ti­tle, get­ting back into the play­offs, just a great feel­ing,” the coach said.

It was also a night where the Cougars in­tro­duced their sleek new black uni­forms, jer­seys and pants, with Escalon on the front but no names on the back, just the jersey num­bers.

“Our name was on the front, that’s who we were play­ing for,” Loureiro said of the play­ers fo­cus­ing on a team and town win.

The play­ers had been told the new black jer­seys would be used for the first time to open the play­offs and so were ex­cited to see them hang­ing in their lock­ers when they came to dress for the Fri­day night con­test.

“There was a cel­e­bra­tion, it was like we were up two touch­downs just get­ting dressed,” Loureiro ad­mit­ted. “Black jer­seys make you look big­ger and the team played big on Fri­day night.”

It was the Cougars’ first shutout vic­tory of the sea­son and Loureiro said that was im­por­tant for a de­fen­sive corps that has some­times come un­der fire but has re­ally started to turn things around the more the sea­son has pro­gressed.

“Let’s hope this is the start of some­thing good,” he said.

Escalon jumped on the Huskies early, tak­ing the open­ing kick­off and turn­ing it into a touch­down. It took just four plays for Jake Lewis to find an open­ing and rum­ble 53 yards for the score. Ro­drigo DeMelo sent through the ex­tra point for a 7-0 lead.

Two more touch­downs would fol­low in the first quar­ter, a 1-yard plunge by Lewis, kick good by DeMelo and a 71-yard counter play bro­ken by Kaden Chris­tensen, fol­lowed by the DeMelo kick, to make it 21-0 in the first quar­ter.

The Cougars rolled to a 35-0 half­time lead on two sec­ond quar­ter scores, Chris­tensen pulling in a 13-yard pass from Steven Grossi, kick good by DeMelo and then El­liott Mello broke free up the mid­dle for a 21-yard run to the end zone. With DeMelo’s kick, the rout was on.

“It’s amaz­ing,” said se­nior DeMelo once the fi­nal sec­onds ticked off the clock. “I love this group, couldn’t ask for bet­ter guys.”

Sec­ond half ac­tion saw the Cougars add one touch­down in the third and a fi­nal score in the fourth quar­ter.

“We have a great team,” added Guillermo Al­varez, who joined last year to help the kick­ing game and got in on the ac­tion with a rush­ing play on Fri­day night. “I’m looking for­ward to play­offs.”

Hugo Al­cala found the end zone on a 1-yard dive in the third. The point af­ter at­tempt failed on a bad snap but it was 41-0 Escalon. In the fourth, scor­ing the fi­nal touch­down of the evening was Jor­dan Gwart­ney, go­ing in from 11 yards out. The kick by DeMelo was good for the 48-0 fi­nal.

Again, the team was click­ing on all cylin­ders, set­tling in to the groove that has been work­ing well for them the past few weeks.

“A lot of peo­ple have doubted us,” noted se­nior Rhys Panero. “Af­ter the Ripon game, that was a wakeup call. I ex­pected to win tonight, but not by that much.”

Mello was the lead­ing rusher, 13 car­ries for 140 yards and a touch­down. Gwart­ney had nine car­ries for 86 yards and a touch­down, Chris­tensen had four car­ries for 81 yards and one pass re­cep­tion for 13 yards, scor­ing a pair of touch­downs. Lewis had five car­ries for 70 yards and two scores while Al­cala had 10 car­ries for 69 yards and a touch­down. Max Ni­cholas caught one pass for 11 yards and the Cougars rolled up some 470-plus yards of of­fense on the night.

For se­nior Estephan Sal­cedo, get­ting the win was a goal all play­ers were fo­cused on Fri­day night.

“It feels amaz­ing,” he said. “We were doubted by a lot of peo­ple but we had to want this win for our­selves, and ul­ti­mately, we had to win for coach and for the town.”

Loureiro said the team did come in with fo­cus and kept their eyes on the game.

“Our front line got a good push all night, we were able to run off tackle and the down blocks were good,” Loureiro said.

The starters and the sec­ond unit crew that got in later in the game all did a solid job open­ing up the holes, noted the coach.

“It makes you feel good as a coach to see that,” Loureiro said of ev­ery­one step­ping up to con­trib­ute. “De­fen­sively, Nash Sat­nat and Mark DeHaven each had seven tack­les and DeHaven had a sack, El­liott Mello and Nick Lat­tig had sacks. We also had two in­ter­cep­tions, Rhys Panero had one and Estephan Sal­cedo had his sixth in­ter­cep­tion of the sea­son.”

The team has also been buoyed by the re­turn of Paul Ayala to the field af­ter hav­ing to sit out most of the sea­son with ill­ness. He has come back strong and is an in­spi­ra­tional leader, said Loureiro.

“He brings some in­ten­sity, phys­i­cal­ity, his en­ergy is con­ta­gious and kids el­e­vate their level of play around him,” Loureiro said.

Escalon had 16 first downs on the night, 474 to­tal yards on 450 yards rush­ing and 24 pass­ing. Hugh­son had nine first downs and 195 to­tal yards, 135 on the ground and 60 through the air.

Escalon com­pleted 2-of-5 passes, Hugh­son com­pleted 8-of-21 with two in­ter­cep­tions.

Nei­ther team fum­bled the ball. Escalon was pe­nal­ized three times for 45 yards, Hugh­son six times for 50.

“It was a clean game, no turnovers for us,” Loureiro said. “We just tried to keep the of­fense on the field. We’re play­ing more ag­gres­sive on de­fense, we have started prac­tic­ing at a dif­fer­ent tempo … we’re gain­ing mo­men­tum.”

PRE­VIEW

Escalon will open up the play­offs on Thurs­day night, Nov. 9 at home host­ing the num­ber seven seed, Mari­posa Griz­zlies. Game time is 7 p.m. at En­gel Field; gates will open at 5:45 p.m. and ticket prices for this CIF Sac-Joaquin Sec­tion play­off game are $10 for adults, $7 for se­nior cit­i­zens and stu­dents kin­der­garten through 12, chil­dren un­der 5 ad­mit­ted free.

Mari­posa comes in with a record of 5-5 over­all and were third in the South­ern League. Loureiro ex­pects a phys­i­cal con­test and said the team is rel­a­tively young, with three sopho­mores and sev­eral ju­niors on the ros­ter.

“They run a shot­gun spread of­fense, like Hil­mar and Ripon so we have seen that be­fore,” Loureiro said. “But they have a lot of trick plays on spe­cial teams and we need to do a lit­tle ex­tra prepa­ra­tion for that.”

The Cougars missed the play­offs in both 2015 and 2016 so Loureiro is hop­ing the crowd will turn out and sup­port the team as they en­ter the sec­ond sea­son.

“They get ex­cited play­ing for a full house,” the coach said.

With a 48-0 vic­tory in hand, Cougar var­sity play­ers raise their hel­mets high and share a smile, cel­e­brat­ing a piece of the league ti­tle, a trip to the play­offs and se­cur­ing win

num­ber 280 for head coach Mark Loureiro.

Se­nior Mark DeHaven gets a bead on the Hugh­son quar­ter­back dur­ing Fri­day night’s TVL con­test. DeHaven, Nick Lat­tig and El­liott Mello each had a sack in the con­test.

Jake Lewis got into the end zone twice on Fri­day night, the se­nior help­ing the Cougars power past Hugh­son, 48-0.

Se­nior play­ers and cheer­lead­ers were rec­og­nized Fri­day night for their years of ded­i­ca­tion to the EHS foot­ball pro­gram. Here, Syd­ney Lee Moeller, cen­ter, is flanked by dad Kurt and mom Jean­nie, who also serves as the cheer coach.

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