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League Title On The Line
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Friday's varsity football game in Hilmar will, in all likelihood, determine the Trans-Valley League crown.

It also will more than likely mean nailing down coveted home field advantage to start the 2011 playoffs.

Both facts are looming large to the Escalon Cougars as they defend their TVL, Sac-Joaquin Section and State championships.

The enormity of the situation is not lost on coach or players and head coach Mark Loureiro said he hopes the date is also circled on the calendar for Cougar fans. He would like as much support as possible as his team hits the road for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff in Hilmar on Oct. 28.

"We play off the crowd, they were loud in Patterson and the kids really feed off that," Loureiro said. "It better be a huge crowd."

Both teams enter the game with perfect 4-0 marks in TVL play. The Yellowjackets, 8-1 overall, are ranked at 179th in the state and Escalon, 8-0, is ranked 168th. Escalon is also the defending state Division III champion and Hilmar would like nothing better than to beat the team that no one has defeated since their 2010 preseason loss to Patterson.

"They resemble us a lot," Loureiro added of the Yellowjackets, coached by Frank Marques. "They don't beat themselves and they're going to force you to play well to beat them."

Hilmar High School is at 7807 Lander Ave., and Loureiro and the Cougars would love to see an influx of purple and gold to rival the green and gold of the home team Yellowjackets.

Both teams have already qualified for the playoffs but still at stake are the seeds and home field advantage.

Hilmar is coming off a 51-13 dismantling of Orestimba while Escalon was home to host Hughson and shut down the Huskies in a 34-7 contest, which featured a running clock in the second half.

Following the Hughson game, players and coaches already had Hilmar on their minds.

"We have to work hard, focus," said junior Jason Robbins. "We have to make sure we're on top of our game, we know they'll be ready."

Junior Nate Chunn agreed.

"I feel we're going to play a great game, we have grown stronger as a team," he said.

Hilmar boasts plenty of weapons that the Cougars will have to contain to take the win.

They are led by three-year quarterback senior Andrew Olson, 6-2, 185; running back and defensive back senior Ryan White, 5-10, 165; wide receiver and linebacker senior Tyler Silva, 6-1, 185; running back and linebacker senior Garrett Jericoff, 5-9, 180.

Keying the defense is senior middle linebacker Zack Giuliano, 6-1, 190; and linemen junior Cory Bayer, 6-2, 230; senior Austin Almeida, 6-0, 245; and senior Anthony Diaz, 5-9, 215. Hilmar also has a dangerous kicker, one of the best in the area, in senior Kurtis Bettencourt, 5-7, 175.

"Both schools have been pointing to this game for a while," admitted Loureiro. "We have had many great battles with Hilmar in the past, in league and in the section playoffs.

"This is what a championship game should be."