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Number 200 Historic Win For Loureiro
His team didn't let him down. His coaches were there, working alongside him. His community, including plenty of former players, came out to support him.

And Escalon head football coach Mark Loureiro could finally smile and savor a sweet win, earning career victory number 200 as his Cougars came from behind to shock Modesto Christian, 40-21, on the gridiron at Engel Field on Friday night. (See game story, additional photos in Sports, Page B1.)

It was a packed house that greeted the teams doing battle on the field, with plenty at stake.

Both teams entered the game with 3-0 marks in Trans-Valley League play, with the winner getting at least a share of the title. The winner would also be guaranteed home field advantage in the opening round of the playoffs.

But even more than that, the historic win was in sight.

After a lackluster first quarter by the Cougars, in which they played tentatively and let Modesto Christian take control, they found themselves in a 21-7 hole. The tide started to turn in the second quarter, when Escalon got one touchdown back to close the gap to 21-14 and then scored twice in rapid succession just before halftime, stunning the Crusaders by taking a 28-21 lead into the locker room.

Modesto Christian never did recover and the Cougars capitalized on their momentum, adding two more scores in the second half to put the game out of reach.

"We had to keep our composure," starting quarterback Spencer Franceschetti said of not getting rattled when trailing by a pair of scores. "We lost our focus in the beginning."

After grabbing the lead, Franceschetti said the halftime talk was to keep it going, but even the Cougars didn't anticipate the total domination they had over the Crusaders in the second half.

"We didn't think we were going to shut them out," he admitted of keeping the high-powered Modesto Christian team off the scoreboard in the third and fourth quarters. "It feels amazing ... to get coach Lou his 200th win and be a part of it."

Franceschetti had a night to remember of his own, throwing for over 200 yards and four touchdowns.

Charlie McDonald contributed mightily as well, running for 226 yards and two touchdowns, and pulling in a 50-yard pass for a score.

"We started off super slow but after that big run (78 yard touchdown run) we got fired up," he said of his first touchdown of the night. "Once we got going, the whole game was amazing."

The stands were packed with fans and plenty were lined up around the track as the marquee match-up unfolded. Among them was Father Peter of St. Patrick's Catholic Church, who noted that when he arrived on scene, rosary in hand, the Cougars were down 21-7.

"Divine intervention," he said, smiling.

Senior Izzy Ruiz said he couldn't be happier with the outcome.

"We came out soft in the beginning but we wanted it," he said of making adjustments after the first quarter onslaught by Modesto Christian.

Putting together a massive night on defense, Tyler Ellisen had 14 tackles and three sacks.

"We had to play with heart," Ellisen said of stepping up into the spotlight.

Getting the lead before halftime was huge, he said, but noted that the team went into the second half with a 0-0 mentality.

"That was our mindset, 0-0, and we wanted to control the ball," he explained. "This team is all heart, all the time."

Thomas Martin, one of the team captains this year, admitted there was some "stressing out" in the first quarter, as the Cougars struggled to get their game going.

"Unfortunately we're a slow starting team this year," Martin said, adding that the Cougars traditionally have a strong second half and they were able to come from behind. "It was a total team thing ... everybody just came together. We changed our defense up a little bit at halftime, this was a big win for everybody."

Senior Mike Gutierrez also soaked up the good feeling following the game.

"It's an honor, I feel proud ... we came out saying this game was for Lou."

Fellow senior Danny Thompson echoed the sentiment.

"There's no better stage, TVL title, Modesto Christian, Coach Lou at 199," Thompson said of working together for the league title and the historic win. "The stars aligned for us tonight and there's no way to describe it ... the feeling is euphoric."

Juniors Jason Diniz and Nick Largent knew it would be a battle.

"We just had to play with heart," Diniz noted.

"I'm just so proud to play for this team, the town, we bleed purple and gold," Largent added. "It's amazing."

Emotions on the sidelines ranged from concern as Modesto Christian controlled the game early on to excitement as the Cougars mounted their comeback to sheer joy as the final seconds ticked off the clock and the fans poured out of the stands to share the victory.

Loureiro, free to smile after the final gun sounded, told his players in the post game huddle that the win was more theirs than his.

"Everybody has been saying that tonight is all about me but it's not ... it's about you," he told the team. "It's about you and all the other players that have ever put on the purple and gold and played for me in those other 199 wins."

Many of those players were on hand to offer congratulations and Loureiro said he was honored that so many people came to support him in his bid for the historic win.

"A lot of the faces I saw after the game, a lot of the people that came to shake my hand, they've been shaking my hand after every one of those 200 wins," Loureiro said.

The coach reiterated that it takes a total team effort to achieve something so monumental, from all the players to coaches over the years, to the support of the school family and the community as whole.

"I just thank the community, the student body and the administration for the support over the years," Loureiro said of his two decades as head coach, adding that he couldn't do it without the support from home as well.

"This is the stuff movies are made of," Loureiro said, smiling. "It's about the community ... when the Cougars win, we all win."