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League Title For Cougars
For the seniors on the football field, Friday night brought a little redemption. For the juniors, they saw what it means to avenge a loss that has stuck with you for a year. Escalon claimed the Trans-Valley League championship with a win on the road, defeating Modesto Christian 28-14. (See additional story, photos in Sports, Page B1.) Last season, the Crusaders came to Escalon and won the title in the final game of the league campaign so the Cougars were more than happy to return the favor. Escalon went 5-0 in league play this season. "It felt great, we were hoping for this all year," senior Joe Cowan said of the crucial meeting with the Crusaders. The way the final two weeks played out, Escalon held its fate in its own hands, having already beaten Hughson. The Huskies, meanwhile, defeated Modesto Christian in their head-to-head meeting, so with a Hughson win and an Escalon loss on Friday night, there would have been a three-way tie for the league title, with each team having one loss. But Escalon, which was fired up from the start, wasn't going to let that happen. Knowing they controlled their own destiny, the Cougar players didn't falter. "It's the greatest feeling in the world," Cowan added. "We knew they weren't going to let down, their quarterback is really good and fast but we just wanted to try and go for it out there." Also savoring the moment was senior Garrett Hawkins, who said the team was united in their Friday night effort. "Patience and hard work at practice all week, we were focused," he explained. Senior kicker Jesus Duran, who also does some running with the ball, said he anticipated the big game by the team. "Revenge is a good motivator," he said with a smile. "I thought we would come out strong." Modesto Christian brought a strong team to the field as well, but the Cougars were able to contain explosive sophomore quarterback Isaiah Burse and limit the big plays. Escalon signal caller senior Nick Aprile said he knew his team was focused from the opening kickoff and the big return by Jake Caton - 63 yards on that kickoff alone - just fired them up even more. "We came out, right from the kickoff, Jacob just had an amazing night," Aprile said. Escalon put 21 points on the board by the opening play of the second quarter, with two scores by Caton and one by Josh May, and Aprile said it appeared to put the Crusaders in a bit of a scramble. "They fight, though, they didn't give up at all," Aprile noted. "Our defense was great, Jacob was the best off the ball for us, Daniel Thompson just comes out with the ball (two interceptions) every time and our offensive line did the job." Thompson again had a couple of key interceptions and said he just works hard to read the quarterback in hopes of making something happen on defense. "He's really mobile," Thompson said of Burse. "He can make so many things happen. He'd look at me and I could just tell where he was going. The first one, he overthrew, the second interception, I was just able to get it. "It's unbelievable, everybody did what they needed to do." The win earned Escalon its first Trans-Valley League title since 2002 and gives them home field advantage for the playoffs. Those start Friday night, Nov. 16 at Engel Field, when the Cougars host Bret Harte in a first round match up. Admission will be $8 for adults, $5 for students and it is a CIF Sac-Joaquin Section game, so there will be no discount for student body cards. Gates will open at 6:30 p.m. and the kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. "Remarkable, it was incredible," Hawkins said of the feeling associated with wining the title. "There's not a word to describe it."