An Escalon High School graduate himself, Andrew Beam knows a little bit about tradition.
He was a standout quarterback for the Cougars during his high school years and now, he is at the helm of the varsity football program. A daunting task; taking over for the now-retired and longtime coach Mark Loureiro, one of the most decorated head coaches in the Sac-Joaquin Section during his decades at the helm.
For Beam, who moved up from his head coaching position at the JV level to take over the varsity, he wants to continue the tradition of winning but is also bringing his own unique style to the game.
Friday night, as the Cougars entered Memorial Stadium for their first home game of the season at Engel Field, two flags were brought in as well, with players carrying an American flag and a yellow flag with a large purple ‘E’ in the center. The flags were placed at midfield during warm-ups before being taken off prior to the presentation of the colors by the Escalon American Legion color guard.
The game itself was a battle, one that saw a tremendous defensive effort for the Cougars as they crafted a 21-7 win over rival Calaveras, a team that has defeated them the last few times the two have met.
Cougar players were happy to get the win in front of their hometown fans.
“Last year they pounded one (touchdown) late on us,” senior Frank Leal, one of this year’s team captains, remembered of a tough loss last season. “It was important that we came out and got the win.”
He pointed to a late first half score by Escalon as shifting the momentum.
“It feels great,” junior Kaden Christensen added. “Playing under Coach Lou was special but now we’re writing our own book, with Coach Beam, and this week we wrote Chapter 2 on our own field.”
Fellow junior Colton Panero said that the varsity squad definitely wanted to showcase their abilities for the crowd.
“It was a little rough in the first half but we kept faith in each other,” he admitted of falling behind 7-0 before knotting the score in the final seconds of the opening half. “We just never got down and getting that first win on our own field … I feel we showed who we really are.”
Senior quarterback Lucciano Dutra agreed that the team didn’t get down when they fell behind but kept battling.
“It was just toughness, honestly,” he said of getting back into the contest and then scoring two unanswered touchdowns in the second half. “We’re never going to be a team that hangs our heads down.”
Getting the win was important for the players and Beam also introduced a new feature at the end of the game. Where in past years, players have gone through the handshake line with the other team and then raced to the end zone, this time they shook hands with their opponents and came to the sideline, facing the stands on the home side. There, accompanied by the cheerleaders, the football players sang the school’s Alma Mater, encouraging the crowd to join in.
“Every home game, win or lose, we are going to do that,” Beam said. “It goes back to Escalon being a school of tradition and it’s something new I wanted to bring.”
The singing of the Alma Mater should help strengthen that ‘Eski High’ bond among the players and fans and Beam said support from the community will be crucial throughout the season.
“Our community showed up on Friday night,” the new varsity head coach said. “They were so supportive … our coaches and players really appreciate it.”
Escalon goes on the road this Friday, Aug. 31 but will be back at home for a game against River City on Friday, Sept. 7.