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Fabulous Friday - Cougars Headed To Semifinals
Accomplishing what many thought wasn't possible, the Escalon varsity Cougars came home from Auburn with a football victory in hand.

They defeated the number one ranked Placer Hillmen on a rain-soaked field on Friday night, using a last second field goal to seal the victory.

For head coach Mark Loureiro, it was a sweet win.

"There's no question about it, people have been trying to pin me down on which are the greatest wins in our history," Loureiro said on Sunday. "Winning the state championship was number one, but this one ranks right next to it."

Escalon simply outplayed the host Hillmen and Loureiro said his team took the 'David vs. Goliath' scenario to heart, the small, rural school team heading up the hill to take on the larger squad and face an opponent most didn't think they could beat. However, said Loureiro, the slingshots were ready.

"I felt so glad for those kids, to accomplish something like this, just great moments," he said.

Amidst the celebration that erupted on the field when the field goal went through the uprights, players pointed to the team effort as being key.

"It's a dream," said senior Robbie Steves. "Our plan in the second half was to run the ball, have the ball in our hands and we knew we could control it."

The Cougars were down 21-17 at halftime but outscored the home team 10-5 in the second half, with the Hillmen getting a safety and a field goal, the Cougars countering with a touchdown and the field goal.

"I'm at a loss for words," admitted senior Alec VonAlvensleben, who kept the final drive alive with a leaping first down catch between two Placer defenders. "It's an amazing feeling. We made the big plays when we really needed to. Hopefully we can carry on this momentum."

Senior quarterback Phillip Kimble said the team liked their chances at halftime.

"We knew we could be beating this team if we hadn't made mistakes," he said, adding that they made the needed adjustments for the second half.

And as far as having to come up with big plays to lead the comeback?

"I was nervous but this is what we live for," Kimble said, smiling. "This is the greatest feeling of my life right now."

Fans that started the game in the stands, under umbrellas, slowly but surely made their way out of those stands and on to the track circling the football field as the game wore on, with the crowd standing to cheer on the Cougars as the last couple of minutes ticked away. They were there to share in the celebration when the final horn sounded.

"You know, it was cold and wet, I knew if I ran out there I might hurt myself," Loureiro admitted of the midfield dogpile scene at the close of the contest. "But just watching it, the kids, the fans, the parents, all diving on to the pile, everyone with that feeling of being young again and just jumping in, it was like the whole town was there ... it was pretty amazing to see."

Loureiro said his wife Lisa had initially planned to stay home but decided at midweek that a change of plans was in order.

"She said she just had a feeling and she wanted to go to the game," Loureiro said.

Senior Alan Gonzales said it was hard to put into words what he was feeling.

"We came in fighting and we were able to take down the number one team," he said. "Even though we were down at halftime, we bent, bent, but we didn't break."

For defensive stalwart Lance Davis, a junior, he said the team owed a lot to the community.

"It's amazing just to have all these people here for us, we couldn't have done it without their support," he said. "Their cheering for us, it just puts a fire in your stomach."

And Escalon's fire was enough to extinguish Placer's season.

Junior Thomas Diniz, who lined up for the game-winning field goal attempt with two seconds to play, said he tried not to think about it too much.

"I didn't really want to think about losing or winning and I knew I could do it," Diniz said about hitting it from 24 yards out. "I just thought of it as another field goal."

A field goal that puts the Cougars at 10-2 and playing in Los Banos on Friday night. Game time is 7 p.m. and the cost is $10 for adults, $7 for students and seniors.

"Here we are alive," Loureiro said. "I never thought we would be practicing Thanksgiving week this year. But now we have a 10-win season, that's what we strive for and we've made that 17 of the last 19 years."