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Bittersweet Football Banquet Wraps Up Years Of Memories
Longtime Escalon varsity football head coach Mark Loureiro, right, smiles after accepting a signed and framed print from two of this years team captains, Trent Cummings, left, and Mark DeHaven, at Sundays football banquet to wrap up the season and Loureiros nearly 30 years on the sidelines at EHS. Marg Jackson/The Times

Escalon’s traditional wrap up banquet for the football season is a chance to reflect briefly on the year gone by while also looking ahead to next season.

But for longtime head coach Mark Loureiro – who is retiring from teaching and coaching – there won’t be a next season to prepare for with the Cougars.

He admitted to having some trouble grasping that concept, feeling a bit like a senior on the team, knowing each game was getting close to his last to represent the purple and gold on the football field.

Players, parents, assistant coaches and sideline support staff were in attendance at the Escalon Azores Hall on Sunday afternoon for the banquet. The program traditionally includes a retrospective of the season and Loureiro said he still believes had the Cougars won their semifinal match against Hilmar on Nov. 17, they would have been playing for a state title.

However, the Yellowjackets got the best of the Cougars the second time around this season, ending their run in the Section playoffs. But an overall 7-5 mark, a 4-1 record in the always tough Trans-Valley League and a share of the league title was not a bad way to cap off a stellar career.

“Coach Lou’ said he has always enjoyed hosting a separate football banquet, where he can talk more at length about the players and the season than during the abbreviated school sports awards night.

He also offered thanks to the many parents that helped out during the season by hosting meals for the team prior to Friday night home games and those that packaged up the ‘to go’ meals and then served them to players boarding the buses to come home after Friday night away games.

“That’s one of the things that makes our program special,” he said of the contributions from parents and the community in helping keep the team-bonding mealtimes a part of the routine.

Players in attendance all received a stat book, a team certificate and will also get a TVL championship patch.

Among those in attendance singled out by Loureiro on Sunday were longtime stat man Kelly Byrd, who grew up across the street from Loureiro when they were kids in Escalon, and trainer Travis Bartelink, who Loureiro called “my insurance policy” for his players.

He also praised the new crop of coaches, the younger guys that have come in as older coaches retired, the new crew including Brandon Hoover, Brant Rose, Victor Carrillo – a member of the 2010 State championship team – and ‘Frosty’ Van Houten, who provided a new level of inspiration for players and brought plenty of intensity to the field.

“I feel so confident with this group,” Loureiro said of leaving the program in good hands.

JV head coach Andrew Beam will move in to the head coaching spot for the varsity team next year, supported by the assistant coaches.

Loureiro also thanked the players on the 2017 squad, players that he said came together, worked hard and showed him they cared about the game.

“The last year had left a sour taste, I felt we underachieved,” Loureiro said of the 2016 campaign.

But that season’s juniors came back with a vengeance as seniors and took ownership of the team, meshing well with the juniors and three sophomores to craft a winning combination.

There also was a little bit of MAGIC – which Loureiro explains stands for Make A Great Individual Commitment.

“I’m sure glad I came back,” Loureiro said of closing out his career with this year’s senior class. “I got to see who they really were, they came back with the hunger.”

In his 29 years as head coach, the Cougars made the playoffs 25 times and won 15 TVL titles. Loureiro’s overall record was 281 wins, 69 losses and one tie.

“I’ve always wondered what would it be like to be a senior, to know that you are not coming back … now I’ve tasted that,” Loureiro said. “Now I can think back on all the good times, all the good memories. Going out as a champion, I can’t thank you guys enough.”