The band played, the senior football players, cheerleaders and parents were saluted, and the night ended with a gridiron victory and the singing of the Alma Mater.
It was a Friday night in Escalon, one that typically would have played out in early winter but instead came in mid-spring. After a late start to the football season due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Cougars got to play three games this season. They took a 38-35 loss to Oakdale in their first game, then ‘lost’ a pair of games because of COVID quarantine protocols. They were able to get back on the field and took down rival Ripon 10-7 on April 10, then came back with the finale on Friday night, April 16. That game, against Sierra of Manteca, saw the Cougars blast the visitors, 48-14.
But more than the final score, it was a night where the football program and school life in general were celebrated, bringing a touch of ‘normal’ back to the community.
The evening included the Senior Night festivities, so both the JV and varsity cheerleaders performed at halftime of the JV game, so as not to interfere with planned halftime festivities for the varsity cheerleaders in the later contest.
Senior players were announced prior to kickoff of the varsity game, meeting their parents and sometimes a sibling, at midfield, after being congratulated by coaches.
The game itself was an exciting flurry in the second quarter – when Escalon scored 35 of its points – and there were still about two minutes left in that first half when power to the scoreboard and the field lights abruptly shut down. After a brief delay, the referees ruled it was halftime and, though with just a little natural light left, the senior cheerleaders were then recognized along with their parents, for their dedication over the years.
“I am actually glad that the lights went out,” admitted head coach Andrew Beam.
Escalon’s Logan Anderson had just intercepted a Sierra pass and, had the Cougars scored a touchdown in the final two minutes of the first half, that would have meant a running clock in the second half because of the point differential.
But that touchdown didn’t come and that, said Beam, was a blessing.
“Without that running clock, that gave me plenty of time to get everybody in, everybody got significant playing time and everybody contributed in this,” he said, a perfect way to send the senior class off the football field winning a final time as Cougars.
“I wish we could have gotten to play 10 games,” said senior center and defensive tackle Chase Pacheco, noting that it was sometimes tough to stay positive amid the COVID setbacks. “They (coaches) just told us to keep our heads up.”
The senior added that getting a win against rival Ripon was definitely the highlight of the season, a victory that the seniors wanted more than anything this year.
“Wow,” added senior Shane Campbell, trying to summarize the whirlwind season and the big win to close it out. “We showed up tonight; we thought it would be tough but we wanted to show them (Sierra) that we could compete.”
The Cougars did more than compete, outperforming the Timberwolves in every aspect of the game.
“It has been really special,” admitted senior Luke Anderson, a three-year varsity player. “Football is my favorite thing to do; it has been the best part of high school and I love this town.”
It was also a special night as Luke saw his younger brother Logan, a sophomore, score his first two varsity touchdowns. It is the first season, said coach Beam, that the brothers have played on the same team.
When Logan scored his first varsity touchdown in the second quarter, Luke was there to lift him high overhead in celebration.
“They worked on that all week,” Beam said, chuckling about the ‘Dirty Dancing’ style movie scene lift.
For younger brother Logan, contributing two touchdowns in the win was memorable.
“I feel great, I felt helpful to my team, especially the seniors, my brother, helping win their final game,” he said.
Senior quarterback Ty Harris echoed the feelings of many teammates; it was a tough road this season, but worth it in the end.
“We grinded through this,” he said. “We just love to compete.”
He also said the team is always appreciative of the community support and were happy to have some fans in the stands for the final game of the season.
“I thank our seniors for the four years of dedication they gave to this program,” added Beam. “This was a fun game. And watching our boys go to the sideline after the game, with the cheerleaders, singing the Alma Mater, having the band there, having the choir there … that was the most real moment we have had a long time.”