Members of the Escalon High School band provided music for the crowd at Friday night’s football game and the choir sang the National Anthem prior to varsity kickoff at Engel Field.
Escalon’s first home game of the football season went in the win column.
Not only that, the win came against a recent nemesis – Calaveras – which had gotten the better of the Cougars the past few times the teams have met.
This year, it was a satisfying win in that it gave first year varsity head coach Andrew Beam his first home win in his first try and the team improved to 2-0 on the young campaign.
It also was significant in that the Cougars found a way to win on a night when the offense had trouble clicking early on.
The final was 21-7 Escalon, with the Cougars scoring two unanswered touchdowns in the second half to take the win.
“In the first quarter our defense played their butts off,” Beam said of the visitors maintaining possession of the ball for much of that opening frame.
In the second quarter, it was Calaveras getting on the board first, breaking through with a little over three minutes to play in the half.
“Calaveras went on a really long drive and capped it off with a one-yard run to go up 7-0,” Beam said.
Escalon saw its first three drives of the night stall out, forcing the punt, giving Calaveras multiple chances with the ball. But the defensive effort was strong and it was the defense that led to Escalon’s first touchdown of the night.
On another Cougar punt, the defense came through.
“Devin Roberson knocked the ball loose from the punt returner and Roman Gonzales recovered it at midfield,” Beam explained.
That charged up the offense, with Lucciano Dutra connecting on passes to Kaden Christensen and Colton Panero on a march down the field.
“It was about a minute and a half drive, Lucciano found Kaden on a 10-yard pass play and the kick was good by Guillermo Alvarez,” Beam said. “It was a nice throw, Lucca threaded the needle and Kaden bent inside the safety.”
With the point after, the Cougars knotted the game at 7-7 with just eight seconds to play in the first half.
“Right there you felt everything change,” Beam said, with the momentum taking a turn in the Cougars’ favor.
Going into the locker room knotted at 7-7, Calaveras got the ball to start the second half and the host team held them to a quick three and out, keeping the momentum on their side.
Escalon scored in the third quarter after a long drive ended with a score from 16 yards out by Luke Anderson. The kick was good by Alvarez to make it 14-7.
Late in the quarter, the Cougars had a chance for another score after a solid punt return by Christensen but a couple of penalties and then a bad snap on a field goal attempt ended the threat.
“I thought that was going to come back to haunt us,” Beam admitted of the missed chance to put more points on the board.
But he pointed to the strong play of the defense and the “great job by coach (Brandon) Hoover” to get the defense ready as being key to the win.
“It was one of the best defensive efforts we’ve had,” Beam said.
The Cougars put their final score on the board in the fourth quarter, with a key reception by Panero extending a drive and then ultimately Panero going in on a 6-yard fly sweep, the kick goody by Alvarez, to make it 21-7.
“Then Frank Leal had an interception that helped secure the game,” Beam said. “I can’t give enough credit to our defense and our defensive coaches, there were seven, eight, nine guys that just stepped up and had great games.”
Roberson, getting his first varsity start, made his presence felt.
“He played the entire game and had seven tackles, just an unbelievable effort for the first varsity start of his career,” Beam said. “This was a game where we found out how tough we were. We had resilience, we were able to wear on them, we basically outlasted them … I’m so proud of our boys.”
The conditioning the team has done paid off as well, as they stayed strong when Calaveras started to fade.
“Jacob Walden, David Camacho played every snap,” Beam pointed out. “Christensen had over 200 yards of total offense; he had eight catches for 129 yards and a touchdown, six carries for 36 yards and a 33-yard punt return.”
Dutra was 10-for-13 passing for 170 yards and a touchdown. Panero had eight carries for 30 yards and a touchdown two catches for 41 yards and a nice punt return, along with six tackles defensively.
“Luke Anderson had six carries for 24 yards and a touchdown and we also needed him on defense, he had four tackles including one on a third and long that was huge,” said Beam.
Nash Satnat led the team in tackles with eight on the night.
The Cougars had 284 total yards of offense to the 233 by Calaveras, with 170 passing yards and 114 on the ground for the Cougars. They had 15 first downs, Calaveras had 10.
Escalon now gets ready for another big preseason game, going to Sonora to face the Wildcats on Friday night, Aug. 31.
“It’s a team that’s ready to explode offensively and they are tough at home,” Beam said.
The Wildcats have been shut out in the first two games, at Oakdale and this past week losing 34-0 to Ripon.
“This will be a big test,” Beam said.
Varsity kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Friday night.
Cheerleaders took the field at halftime to perform their routine, with some high-flying stunts to wow the crowd.
Escalon’s Colton Panero, 2, keeps the Calaveras defender at bay as he makes his way up the field on Friday night. The home opener at Engel Field was a 21-7 win for the host Cougars and Panero scored one of the three Escalon touchdowns on the night.
Going in low to tackle the ball carrier was Frank Leal, making the stop on Friday night. He also had a fourth quarter interception that helped secure a Cougar victory.
Quarterback Lucciano Dutra, at left, drops back to survey the field before sending off a pass on Friday night. He completed 10-of-13 pass attempts in a 21-7 Cougar win over visiting Calaveras.