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One More Time Friday Night Football Will Crown Section Champ
Months of preparation and practice, dating back to the sweltering days of summer when they hit the weight room to gain strength and endurance, the Escalon High varsity football team is now poised at the brink ... ready to battle Mother Lode League foe Calaveras for the blue banner. The Cougars and Redskins will face off Friday night, Dec. 3 at Lincoln High School in Stockton in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV championship game.

The Escalon varsity reached the final with a resounding 41-6 thumping of visiting Colfax in a Nov. 26 contest.

Calaveras, meanwhile, was dispatching Union Mine in 28-21 fashion in the other semifinal to set up the title contest.

"It's the farthest they've ever gone in the playoffs," Escalon head coach Mark Loureiro said of Calaveras. "We always scrimmage them to start the school year and this is the team they've been waiting for, these guys have played together since Pop Warner football."

Calaveras brings a variety of weapons to the field, starting with running back/free safety Monti Wilson, 5-11, 185.

"He has rushed 182 times for 1,400 yards and 18 touchdowns," explained Loureiro. "Their quarterback has a real strong arm, he has thrown for 1,200 yards and 14 touchdowns."

Quarterback for the Redskins is Garrett Bock, 5-11, 170 and his favorite receiver is Connor Seawell, 5-11, 170, who has caught 34 passes for 800 yards and scored 10 touchdowns.

Other key players are running back/defensive back Chris Ussery, 5-8, 160; guard/linebacker Eli Thom, 6-1, 225; tackle/defensive lineman Jack Carlile, 6-1, 270.

"They run the fly offense, use a lot of misdirection," Loureiro noted. "They like to pull and trap a lot, the quarterback is real mobile and he can stretch the field, throw deep, you can make things happen that way."

For Escalon, the season has been one of steady improvement, rebounding from a home loss to now non-league rival Patterson on Sept. 17 to rattle off 10 straight wins since then, including three in the playoffs. Escalon dispatched Amador, 63-25, in the first round, took down Central Catholic by a 28-0 verdict in the second and put away Colfax in the semifinal. But they are still looking for more.

"It feels great and I am proud to be a part of this program," said senior Aaron Hughes after Friday night's win over Colfax. "It's important how we came together, all one big happy family."

Fellow senior Chad Hale agreed that the team is focused and together.

"I think we know, from all the work we put in over the summer in the weight room, we come to practice focused," Hale explained. "This feels euphoric, it's amazing."

Players and coaches alike want that euphoric feeling one more time, and they hope to achieve it Friday night. They come in at 12-1 and the Redskins are at 11-2. Both were the top seed in their respective brackets, Calaveras the number one team in Division IV-A, Escalon the top seed in Division IV-B.

Calaveras, coached by Jason Weatherby, defeated Dixon 28-7 in the opening round of the playoffs, topped Livingston 22-14 in round two and got past Union Mine 28-21 last week.

Escalon seniors James Hill and Victor Carrillo said their own semifinal win was a true team effort, everyone knowing they had to step up and give their best to reach the final.

"This feels better than beating Central (Catholic)," admitted junior Nate Caton, who recorded a huge sack in the Nov. 26 contest to stop a Colfax drive.

Added senior Dylan Cathcart, "We've been working hard all year for this and it has been a dream of ours since many of us were playing for the Outlaws. We all came together this year, we believe in each other ... we believe in ourselves."

Game time on Friday will be 7 p.m. and the gates will open at 5 p.m.

The field is at Lincoln High School at 6844 Alexandria Place, Stockton. From I-5, take the Benjamin Holt exit and go east on Benjamin Holt, then turn left on Alexandria Drive.

Pre-sale tickets will be available on Thursday, Dec. 2 only, from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the counseling center at Escalon High. Ticket prices are $10 for adults, $6 for students and senior citizens for the Section final and there will be a $5 parking fee. Escalon will be the home team for the contest.

The last time the Cougars were in the Section final was 2005 and Loureiro said he and his coaching staff are eager to return.

"You never get there enough," Loureiro said. "I am so proud of these kids ... now let's go finish the job."