Escalon’s first Trans-Valley League contest of the season is one the players have been waiting for since last November.
After being knocked out of the playoffs by Hilmar on a late November night last year, the rematch is set for Friday night, Sept. 27.
Hilmar is the defending state champion, earning a 49-0 win against Strathmore last December in the Division 6-AA final. The Cougars would like nothing better than to avenge a pair of losses to the Yellowjackets during the 2018 campaign. It was a 20-17 overtime loss to Hilmar to start league play last season for Escalon, and then meeting up with them again in the Section semifinal game, taking a 28-18 loss to end the season.
“They have picked up right where they left off from last year with their championship run,” Escalon head coach Andrew Beam said of the Yellowjackets.
They put together a 4-0 preseason – as did Escalon – and then defeated Ripon 38-27 in their TVL opener at home on Sept. 20. Escalon had their league bye during the first week and go on the road this week for the league showdown.
Beam said several Cougars did travel to watch the Hilmar-Ripon game on their Friday night off, to see the teams in action firsthand.
“Hilmar looked fast and physical,” Beam said. “This should be another good match with a rival that we respect a lot.”
Once again, Beam said the team is asking for fans to participate in a ‘white out’ for the game on Friday night and there will also be a charter bus for students, offered at a cost of $5 per student.
“That will include pizza and soda on the way to the game,” Beam said of looking to get plenty of support to Hilmar. “The bus will be open until full.”
Also, the popular thunder sticks noisemakers will be passed out to those in the student section to add to the decibel level for the Cougar fans.
The Yellowjackets are coached by Frank Marques and look to improve to 6-0 on the campaign when they host the Cougars. Their preseason wins included a 55-0 decision over Delhi, 49-19 over Los Banos, both at home, as well as taking down Gustine 42-0 and Sonora 28-7, on the road.
They are led by junior quarterback Seth Miguel, checking in at 6-1, 185 and bring plenty of other weapons to the field.
Escalon comes in to the game with 166 points for in four games, 40 points against; Hilmar is at 212 points for in five games, 53 against. The Cougars also have yet to lose a game this season, winning two at home and two on the road. Wins on the road were a 24-7 effort at Calaveras and a huge 49-20 decision at Downey. In home action, the Cougars were 58-0 winners over Union Mine and took a 35-13 victory against Sonora.
With the bye week, Escalon has had time to practice, watch film and get as prepared as possible for the battle that lies ahead.
Beam said going on the road, the Cougars will need to focus, harness their energy and play a smart game to come out on the right side of the score. He also said there isn’t much extra motivation needed.
“They’ve been wanting it (this game) since last November,” Beam said.
Kickoff in Hilmar is scheduled for 7 p.m.