Leave the preseason record behind. Everyone is 0-0. Everyone has a chance to win the Trans-Valley League.
That’s the advice from Escalon head coach Mark Loureiro, who will take his varsity football Cougars on the road Friday night for the start of the 2017 TVL campaign. They are coming off a bye week and will head to Hilmar for the league opener against the Yellowjackets. Game time is 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 6.
“They are the defending league champion and they are 3-2 overall,” Loureiro said of Hilmar. “But everybody is 0-0 in league, everybody is in first place right now.”
The clean slate after the preseason campaign gives all teams the chance to start fresh and Loureiro believes it will be quite a battle for the TVL title this season.
“Looking at preseason records, who beat who, strength of schedule, all that, I think it’s a pretty even league,” Loureiro explained. “There are four teams that look to have a shot at winning this thing ... I’m hoping we’re one of the four.”
Escalon played to a 2-3 preseason record, getting wins in their preseason opener at home against Enochs and a win on the road against Liberty Ranch in Galt. They lost to Calaveras at Engel Field, and took road losses at Liberty High in Madera and at Patterson.
Hilmar got wins against Beyer, Lathrop and Livingston while losing to Gustine and Sonora.
Frank Marques returns to coach the defending champions. Top players for the Yellowjackets include senior quarterback Tristan Crowley, 6-1, 185 and junior quarterback Ryan Teixeira, 6-0, 180.
Leading rusher is junior running back Isaac Sharp, 5-11, 170 and top defender is Justin Rentfro, 6-1, 205, a linebacker and the team’s second leading rusher. Another solid player for the Yellowjackets is Tyler Amarante, 5-9, 185, a linebacker and running back.
“Beating Hilmar at Hilmar is tough. They are a shotgun spread offense, they throw the ball and run the ball,” said Loureiro. “They’re young; they start a lot of juniors too.”
Escalon battled through an incredibly tough preseason campaign and many players are still nursing bumps, bruises, sprains and strains. With this past Friday night being the bye week, the team has been able to get a little extra time to heal and added practices. But they will have to play a clean, strong game in order to come out of Hilmar with a victory in hand.
“We have to play better, we have to tackle better,” Loureiro said. “By far we haven’t played our best game yet.”