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Shutout Win In Preseason Finale For Cougar Homecoming
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Big pass plays, a solid rushing attack and a nearly impenetrable defense added up to a successful Homecoming for Escalon's varsity Cougars on Friday night, the home team shutting out Linden, 35-0.

"We were very happy with Homecoming, we got all the kids involved in the game and that makes it great, especially for the seniors," said head coach Mark Loureiro. "We made a few mental mistakes in the first half that could hurt us against better teams, we'll have to take care of that."

Escalon came out with a determined mindset, the players setting aside all the Homecoming hoopla to stay focused on the task at hand. The game itself was a relatively easy win, with the Cougars able to keep the Lions out of the end zone.

"I was a little surprised," Loureiro admitted of the shutout. "On film during the week, they looked big and physical, we were expecting more out of them."

Linden immediately started with the shotgun formation and the Cougars wreaked havoc on them all night, coming up with plenty of pass deflections, excellent coverage downfield and two interceptions, both by Jake Caton.

"The first one set up our first touchdown," Loureiro explained.

Escalon won the toss and kicked off, with the Lions starting their first drive at the 32-yard line. After a couple of short gains on the ground, they went to the air on a third and eight and that's when Caton pulled it down, setting up the Cougars for a drive at the 45-yard line. Josh May had two successive carries of over 10 yards, with another short run and then an incomplete pass. After another first down run by May, Jake Loureiro took the handoff and went 10 yards for the score, with 10:03 still to play in the first quarter. Jesus Duran added the point after for an early 7-0 lead.

Linden went three and out on their next possession, with the Cougars methodically marching down the field with a nice punt return by Danny Thompson setting up the drive. Quarterback Nick Aprile had some nice rushes on the drive, along with May and Caton also contributing. With a fourth and goal on the 1-yard line, the Cougars went for it and May took it in, Duran added the kick and it was 14-0 for Escalon with 2:52 remaining in the opening period.

Again trying to get the offense started, Linden's next drive was cut short on a nice tackle by Thompson that knocked the ball loose, with Duran there to recover the fumble.

The Cougars were driving as the first quarter drew to a close, but Linden came up with an interception to go back on offense to start the second quarter.

After three incomplete passes, however, the Cougars got the ball back.

"Our secondary did a great job, the coverage was excellent," Loureiro noted. "Defensively, Izzy Ruiz had nine tackles, Joe Cowan had seven, Anthony Gonzales and Jesus Duran each had a fumble recovery, Brandon Collins had a sack; it was great to see everybody get involved."

The teams traded a few possessions in the second quarter before Escalon found the end zone again, this time May going in on a 3-yard run. Duran added the kick, making it 21-0 with 4:31 to play in the half. Linden went three and out, Escalon converted on their final possession of the half, with Loureiro scoring on a 17-yard run. Duran's kick was good and it was 28-0.

"Everybody contributed," Loureiro said of the offensive scheme. "Jake Loureiro had two nice touchdown runs, Danny Thompson got involved in the offense, he had three catches for 91 yards including a 77-yard catch for a touchdown. Nick, Jake Caton and Josh, the whole backfield ran well, we spread the wealth around."

Escalon took the second half kickoff and didn't wait very long to strike, Aprile hooking up with Thompson on the 77-yard play with 10:26 to go in the third. With the kick by Duran, the Cougars capped off their scoring at 35-0.

"We had a lot of kids working hard," Loureiro said of getting the shutout.

After taking the big lead, he also took the opportunity to rotate in all the players, using Travis Hill as the primary quarterback in the third quarter and getting Phil Quiroz in for some snaps late in the game.

Neither team found the end zone over the rest of the final two quarters, and Loureiro said his coaching staff was extremely happy with the shutout and the solid offensive work.

"We knew as we got deeper in the schedule we'd have to pass more," he pointed out. "We had 148 yards passing. This ends the non-league schedule for us, it's good to end it on a high note and take momentum into league."

Escalon had 17 first downs on the night to Linden's six, while the Cougars rolled up 411 yards of offense and Linden had 130. Rushing, the Cougars ran the ball 44 times for 263 yards, Linden had 17 rushes for minus 13 yards. The Cougars completed 7-of-15 passes for 148 yards and one interception, Linden completed 12-of-29 passes for 143 yards with two interceptions. Each team lost fumbles, with Escalon losing one and Linden losing two. The Cougars did have problems with penalties, flagged eight times for 65 yards. The Lions had just one penalty for five yards.

"This is definitely a huge win," said quarterback Aprile. "To go up to Bret Harte and get the win there, come back here and win ... we came out and did our job. Now we have to go out and do the job in league."

Escalon takes a 4-1 mark out of the preseason but will be 0-0 in Trans-Valley League play as they travel to Ripon for a game with the Indians on Friday night, Oct. 12. Kickoff will be about 7:30 p.m.