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A Night To Remember Awaits Cougar Community
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Making up the Homecoming Queen court this year are, from left, Alexis Guzman, Sophia Martin, Macie Vickers, Hannah Wampler and Janesa Aldasoro. One will receive the crown on Friday night, Oct. 20 when the Escalon Cougars celebrate Homecoming with a special night, the reopening of Engel Field and a TVL showdown with Ripon. Marg Jackson/The Times

It’s Homecoming, it’s a chance to solidify a hold on the Trans-Valley League football title but, even more, it’s an opportunity to celebrate Escalon and its longstanding traditions.

Friday night, Oct. 20 will feature the grand reopening of Engel Field and the varsity football team will finally have the chance to play a true ‘home’ game this season.

Head football coach Andrew Beam said it promises to be a memorable night and one that has been a long time coming, as the field has been replaced, a new track put in and other upgrades and improvements made to Engel Field at Memorial Stadium.

Beam – who welcomed his third child with wife Chelsea early morning Thursday, Oct. 12 – said there wasn’t a better time for new son Boston to arrive. Though three weeks early, the baby boy made it possible for dad Andrew to be back on the football field on Oct. 13 as the Cougars roughed up Hilmar, and baby Beam is also expected to make an appearance at the Homecoming game.

There is also the matter of the Homecoming Queen coronation, the Friday afternoon parade downtown prior to the big game, a special ribbon cutting ceremony to officially dedicate the new Engel Field … it is shaping up as a one-of-a-kind celebration.

“We haven’t won a Homecoming game since 2019; first it was the COVID year (2020) and then back-to-back losses,” Beam said of his team eager to get back on the winning track for Homecoming. “Plus, it’s also Ripon; this Escalon-Ripon rivalry just has a bitterness to it.”

Ripon is teetering on the edge of not making the playoffs so Beam said they will come in ready to give their best effort.

“Ripon has to win to get into the playoffs, they have to beat us or Hughson so they’re fighting for their lives,” Beam explained.

Before the Friday night clash, there is plenty going on around the EHS campus.

There are special dress up days going on at school all week, with Homecoming Commissioners senior Destiny Reyes and junior Katelyn Kjellberg noting that they were to include Jersey Day on Monday, Oct. 16 and Tacky Tourist Day on Tuesday, Oct. 17.

“Wednesday is Western Day and then Thursday is ‘rep your ring’ so we have each class do their assigned color and then we have the rally on Thursday and we have Extreme Purple and Gold for Homecoming on Friday,” Reyes said.

“We start working the summer before Homecoming and we plan everything out during summer, we get everything signed, we get the parade in order and then it’s a lot of just crunch time at the end, the last week and then we have the big reveal and it’s all good,” Kjellberg added.

There will be a Thursday night rally and the mid-afternoon Homecoming parade on Friday that will line up on Coley, turn on to First Street and then on to Main, following the traditional route. The JV football game starts at 5 p.m. and the halftime festivities of the varsity game will include crowning of a new Homecoming Queen. Candidates this year are, in alphabetical order, Janesa Aldasoro, Alexis Guzman, Sophia Martin, Macie Vickers and Hannah Wampler.

Aldasoro served as a Homecoming Commissioner last year and now has seen the tables turned, as she is a member of the Homecoming Court.

“It gives me a newfound appreciation for it because I know all the hard things that go in to making Homecoming what it is and it just gives me great pleasure to be a part of the fun,” Aldasoro said. “I think that night’s going to be a great night and I want everybody to enjoy it, not just me. I think everybody, the town, the students, everyone should just enjoy it because nothing like this happens every day.”

Guzman said she was a bit surprised to find herself nominated but happy as well.

“It’s exciting, it’s fun, glad to be here,” Guzman said.

For Martin, she admits feeling some excitement when hearing her name announced as a queen candidate.

“I didn’t expect it, so I was really excited,” Martin said.

Vickers agreed with her fellow candidates, feeling the excitement of the moment.

“I’m going to try and go all out for the spirit days and just have a fun time with the girls on the court,” said Vickers.

Wampler said her initial feeling, upon hearing her name announced as a candidate, was one more of shock than excitement.

“It’s honestly very shocking that I get to be on this, I feel honored that I got chosen and I’m excited for the next week and just to see who wins and I will be glad for whoever gets it,” Wampler shared.

Escalon comes in to the Homecoming game on a high note, having defeated TVL rival Hilmar in decisive fashion on Friday, Oct. 13 in a ‘home’ game at Modesto Junior College.

It was a total team effort in a 49-21 thrashing of the Yellowjackets, said coach Beam, with touchdowns scored by Nico Franzia (2), Ryan Lewis, Josh Graham, Sam Jimenez, Talan Reider and Jamin Miller. Reider had four carries for 106 yards, Graham had 10 carries for 103 yards and Miller had three carries for 73 yards. Jimenez was the leading receiver, seven catches for 101 yards, Franzia had two catches for 53 yards and Lewis had three catches for 29 yards.

Defensively against Hilmar, Nate Krieger and Lewis had nine tackles each, Ben Lora had a sack, Franzia had six tackles and Jimenez had an interception.

Escalon rolled up 509 total yards of offense to Hilmar’s 318 and in what was expected to be a battle of top teams in the league, Escalon far outclassed the Yellowjackets.

Senior quarterback Donovan Rozevink also drew praise from his coach.

“He was 12-for-17 for 177 yards and no picks,” Beam said. “This season he has 16 touchdowns to two picks ... with his body of work, it makes complete sense why we’re 7-1 at this point.”

The coach also looks back at a preseason where the Cougars took on much larger, higher division schools and came through the gauntlet with a 4-1 record as being key to their success as the season has moved along.

“We came out here and we didn’t expect anything less than a battle from Hilmar,” said senior Nico Franzia following the Oct. 13 victory. “We came out here, going our hardest and we put up 50 points and just showed who’s really better.”

Franzia also said the Cougars, who had some players dealing with injuries on Friday night, didn’t see that as an issue.

“Mindset was next guy up, I mean, we knew we could get the job done so we went in there and got it done.”

He also said the focus this week will be on getting the elusive Homecoming victory, as this year’s seniors have not enjoyed that type of win.

“It’s just like getting revenge from Hilmar and from Hughson this year, we haven’t won a Homecoming game yet, the past two years, these varsity guys, so we plan on bringing one home this Friday,” Franzia said.

Senior Jamin Miller said the team was focused against Hilmar and plans to stay that way.

“We knew we just had to get the job done,” Miller noted. “Escalon is always full of people who are willing to get in there; we work hard at practice, everyone, firsts and seconds so I think anyone who goes in the game after someone gets banged up, they’re all ready.”

Quarterback Rozevink said it was important to get the win over Hilmar as it helps set them on the path to a coveted TVL title.

“A lot of us were on the team last year that lost (to Hilmar); we won state, we won NorCal, we won Sections, we did all that but the one thing we didn’t have was a league title, last time we won it was my sophomore year and we want that back,” he said. “Everybody on the team basically knows that taste of losing to Hilmar so no one wanted to lose to Hilmar so we were all grinding all week.”

Rozevink anticipates the same game plan to prepare for Ripon.

“Everybody that’s been on the team for three years since we were sophomores haven’t won a Homecoming game, I’ve never won a Homecoming game so we’re really going to be grinding this week, nothing can distract us ... we’ve just got to stay locked in all week.”

And for Beam, who played his high school football on the old Engel Field, he said the unveiling of the new field is something he hopes everyone in the community will attend.

“We want this to be the biggest night in Engel Field history, and that’s saying something considering we have won two state titles here,” Bean said. “We want a gathering and a collection of our community as we reflect on the past and what got us to this point, and also look to the future of what can be.”

The official Engel Field dedication ceremony will take place after the conclusion of the junior varsity game, probably about 7 p.m.

“It’s going to be a red carpet ceremony,” Beam said of the planned festivities. “Steve Largent will be on the podium at the microphone and he will give us an introductory speech, followed by Superintendent (Ricardo) Chavez and the school board presenting plaques of appreciation to some of our donors. We want to recognize those donors and the school board will be there for the ribbon cutting.”

Also scheduled to be on hand, the Escalon American Legion Gustafson Thomspon Post 263 will present the colors for the special celebration and serving as an Honorary Captain, to assist with the pre-game coin toss will be Mark Loureiro. He spent decades coaching and teaching at Escalon High School, establishing Escalon football as one of the premier programs in the area, with multiple league, Section and a couple of state titles as well.

“He’s the guy that has put this town, this athletic program, on the map,” Beam said, noting that it took some convincing, but Loureiro finally agreed to come back for the coin toss and to be part of the Engel Field dedication.

“We’re also selling commemorative T-shirts for the new field; it has a big E on the front and on the back it says ‘New Field, Same Dream’,” explained Beam.

The shirts are on sale for students now and limited quantities will be available for purchase at the game.

Beam said with the chance to clinch the TVL title, the opportunity to win a Homecoming game while sending Ripon home with a loss, it’s a night where he wants to see the stands packed.

“We’re calling on people to get off the couch and come join us, we want to see former EHS athletes and students, community members, it’s going to be pretty special,” Beam said. “We want everybody to come and celebrate this moment with us.”

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Dozens of youngsters worked with the Escalon High School cheerleaders to prepare for their big night on Oct. 13, as they performed at halftime and also were involved in the sideline cheers for part of the contest pitting Escalon vs. Hilmar. Marg Jackson/The Times
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Going up and over his Hilmar counterpart, Escalon’s Sam Jimenez makes the catch during Trans-Valley League play on Friday night, Oct. 13. Jimenez had a touchdown catch and pulled in a 2-point conversion in a 49-21 Cougar victory. Marg Jackson/The Times
Players and support personnel surround the coveted Vaca Bowl Trophy, as the Cougars won the ‘Battle for the Milk Can’ in the Friday night TVL contest against Hilmar at Modesto Junior College on Oct. 13. The trophy stays with Escalon this year; the teams will battle for it again next season in TVL play. Marg Jackson/The Times