A commitment to each other – and to themselves – went a long way in making the difference this season.
Escalon’s varsity football team powered through a 14-1 campaign, capping it off with a State Championship, brought home in front of their hometown fans at Engel Field on Saturday night, Dec. 14. The Cougars defeated the La Jolla Vikings by a final score of 52-21 and were presented with the Division 4A State Football Trophy.
“We all play for each other, we all worked hard, we hit the weight room, we’ve been in there since last January,” said junior Luke Anderson, who scored three touchdowns in the season finale. “We’ve been talking about the Section, about State … it’s very surreal right now.”
The feeling on the field was echoed by many players and fans, who watched the team dominate in all facets of the competition and provided plenty of reasons for the Cougar faithful to cheer, loud and proud.
“A lot of us had been coming to Cougar games since we were little, we were always wanting to be those guys in the purple and gold,” Anderson added. “It’s awesome.”
Senior Jacob Walden, who earlier indicated winning the Section title was the best feeling ever, said he needed to revise that statement.
“This is now the best feeling ever,” he said with a grin.
He also added that the season finale also came with a tinge of sadness, as he and his senior teammates donned the purple and gold for the last time, stepping on to Engel Field as Cougars.
Still, he wouldn’t trade it for anything.
“I can’t ask for much more,” Walden said.
Quarterback Ty Harris, a junior who had an outstanding run through the playoffs, including an 8-for-8 effort in the title game, had praise for his offensive line, his receivers, his running backs and the defense that pushed La Jolla around all night.
“It doesn’t feel real ... it’s just a dream come true, a dream I’ve had since I was a little kid,” Harris said. “We knew they’d (La Jolla) never seen a Wing T team like us, we knew we had to just pound the ball and that’s what we did.”
Varsity head coach Andrew Beam, in his second year leading the varsity team, said to see the squad accomplish so much this season makes him both proud and happy.
“I think there was something special for each individual,” he said of those playing in and watching the Dec. 14 game unfold. “To have the highest level of high school football on your own field, it’s just unbelievable.”
Escalon was also the only team whose state championship game featured a running clock, as they had a 35-plus point lead in the fourth quarter before a late touchdown by the Vikings cut the deficit to 52-21.
Beam offered kudos to the Escalon school district personnel that got the field ready for the competition, the cheerleaders who made signs throughout the week and pumped up the crowd and the community for its incredible show of support.
“We had seven meals donated to the kids, people fed us all week,” Beam said.
That included dinners Monday through Friday, a breakfast on Saturday and a team meal on Saturday afternoon prior to the 6 p.m. kickoff.
“It’s been a lot in a short amount of time,” Beam admitted of the whirlwind of activity and emotion. “We just have to enjoy the moment.”
Senior Clay Evans was among those who was thoroughly enjoying the title run, celebrating with friends and family after the final seconds ticked off the clock.
“Everyone stepped it up and our goal all week was to have one more, get one more,” he said. “It just is an indescribable feeling. Being on the field, you get to hear that Escalon roar.”
Senior Damien Tom said he anticipated a closer game and knew the Vikings would put up a fight.
“I feel they were a good team but going out to work in the weight room, this was our dream,” Tom said of the lengthy preparation to get to this point. “Winning state is a dream come true.”
“I hope the kids really reflect on how special this season was,” added Beam. “Just an unbelievable process, through the highs and the lows, they handled everything with maturity … this is a good one to finish on.”