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Parade In Works For State Champs
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It will take some coordination, but city and school officials agree a celebratory parade will most likely be scheduled to recognize the Escalon Cougars football team, the state's Division III champions.

The timing of the victory in southern California - Saturday, Dec. 18 - was the day after the school system went on winter break and classes don't resume until after the first of the year. So, any parade will wait until city and school leaders can sit down and work out a plan.

"I think we really need to do something," said Escalon City Manager Henry Hesling, noting that newly installed Mayor Danny Fox is also on board.

Fox was among the estimated 1,200 people on the Escalon side of the stadium at the Home Depot Center in Carson for the Dec. 18 contest. The game saw the underdog Cougars put away the Madison Warhawks of San Diego by a 30-14 decision. The Escalon team was also the first public school from Northern California selected to play in the five-year-old Division III bowl game and, as head coach Mark Loureiro indicated following the victory, "gave hope" to all those other public school squads that they might also some day play in the state championship.

Hesling said he anticipated a meeting soon with school representatives and said he hoped to have some type of celebration and downtown parade on the schedule in January. Already, a sign has been erected at the McHenry-Highway 120-Escalon Bellota Road intersection at the west end of town, saluting the champions.

Escalon lost just one game all season, losing at home on Sept. 17. They had won two preseason games on the road before opening at Engel Field in another non-league preseason contest with Patterson, but the Tigers got the best of the Cougars in that home opener.

From there, however, it was a different team that came out on the field, with a different mindset and a cohesiveness that had all players pointed in the same direction. After the loss to Patterson, the 2010 Cougars did not taste defeat again and went on to post a 14-1 record. They rolled through the Trans-Valley League schedule, going 6-0 and closing out the title winning season with a thumping of nemesis Modesto Christian at MC. They also shut down opponents in the playoffs, including a shutout win over Central Catholic. Their toughest test of the campaign came against Calaveras, the team they opened up the season with in a scrimmage format in Calaveras in late August.

This time, in early December with the Sac-Joaquin Section title on the line, the Cougars took the lead against the Redskins, fell behind in the fourth quarter, then came back with a game-winning drive for the ages at Lincoln High in Stockton on Friday night, Dec. 3. Following that thrilling 22-20 win, it was a waiting game for the state bowl bid. News of the team's selection (over Cardinal Newman) to play for the state D3 title came just before the team's football banquet on Sunday, Dec. 12.

A flurry of activity the following week had players taking final exams and finishing up projects a little early, football practices every night - often in the rain, which got the Cougars ready for the conditions they would face in Carson - and donations coming in from all directions to help provide that little bit extra the team needed to make their brief stay in Southern California a memorable one.

Loureiro said businesses, organizations, community groups and private citizens all had a hand in the team's success, with so many contributions and so much support coming in. He also said the team was buoyed by the sendoff they got early morning Dec. 17, with a crowd of supporters and an escort of police, fire and emergency services vehicles. The crowd was even bigger, with signs and banners, waiting at the school late night Dec. 18 when they pulled back into town as state champions.

Hesling said information will be provided about the date and time for the parade as soon as all the pieces are put into place.