The three-headed monster of Colton Panero, Kaden Christensen and Luke Anderson turned Saturday night into a nightmare for the La Jolla defense, as the Escalon Cougars captured the State Football Championship for Division 4A.
Building up a 31-7 lead at the half, the final was 52-21 and it was the trio of punishing Cougar runners who did the bulk of the damage. All ran for over 1,000 yards this season.
After a Brayan Barrientos field goal got Escalon on the board to start the game, capping the first drive of the night with the 34-yard kick and early 3-0 lead, the trio of runners took over.
Anderson scored the first touchdown of the night and Panero the second, opening up a 17-0 lead. The visiting Vikings got one back to close the gap to 17-7 but back to back touchdowns by Christensen made it a 31-7 lead at half – Anderson running in the 2-point conversion to cap the first half scoring.
It was 38-7 with 4:53 to go in the third on another Anderson touchdown run and after another Viking score, it was 38-13. Christensen then went in on a 42-yard pass play from Ty Harris for a 45-13 lead with 10:19 to go in the fourth. A 13-yard touchdown by Anderson with 6:27 left in the game made it 52-13 and ended any hope the Vikings had of securing a title.
The visitors did keep battling and got a rushing touchdown and 2-point conversion with 1:44 to go in the game, with the final 52-21.
The celebration was on; the presentation of the championship trophy and the singing of the alma mater by the cheerleaders, players and the huge crowd of Cougar fans rounded out the night.
The Cougars last won the state title in 2010; the 2019 team earned the Division 6 Section championship, traveled to Chico and defeated Pleasant Valley in the North regionals in Division 4A and then hosted and put away La Jolla for the State Championship.
Look for the full story and additional photos in the Dec. 18 issue of The Times.