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Second Season Over For Cougars
Senior Nick Largent placed his hand gently on the shoulder of younger teammate Josh Miguel on the sidelines late in the fourth quarter Friday night. Miguel, head down staring at the ground, could take some solace in that for him, there will be a next season in a Cougar uniform. For Largent, Friday night was his purple and gold finale.

"I can't believe it's over," Largent said of his football career suiting up for Escalon High.

The Cougars were ousted from the playoffs in the second round, beaten by Modesto Christian in a decisive 49-7 Crusaders win. (See story, additional photos in Sports, Page A13.)

"They earned it," Largent added of the host squad, which topped Escalon for the second time during the season. "To get beat twice in a season ... it's just weird being done."

In a Nov. 6 contest, Modesto Christian came away with a 21-16 victory, wrapping up the Trans-Valley League crown. This time, the win put them through to the semifinals, where they will face Central Catholic on Friday, Dec. 4 for the right to advance to the Dec. 11 Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV championship game.

Modesto Christian never allowed Escalon to get its potent offense going, keeping the defense on the field for much of the night.

Senior Travis Cardoza, who served as one of the team captains this season, had a supportive shoulder from assistant coach Brandon Hoover to lean on after the game, letting his emotions flow, while senior Tym Blair, fighting back tears after receiving hugs from well-wishers, said it was sad to see it end but he wouldn't trade the season for anything.

"It was just fun all around, being with the coaches, helping the younger guys," he said of serving as a role model to the underclassmen.

He does envy their opportunity to come back next year.

"Just come back hard," he advised. "Don't take any plays off, don't take any games off ... work hard."

Senior Jason Johnstad added that the loss was tough, since no one wants to lose their final game. But he pointed to plenty of successes for the team.

"We never got beat at home," he said. "They (MC) were the better team tonight but we left it all out there ... I have no regrets."

In a night that featured a couple of downpours, plenty of mud on the sidelines and umbrellas in the stands, the Cougar faithful were there to root their players on. So were the cheerleaders, who gave their all for the final game with longtime coach Sue Thompson at the helm. She is retiring from coaching after more than 15 years.

Daughter Julia 'Jules' Thompson, a senior, performed her last cheer routine as a member of the football cheerleading squad as well.

"Those were the best four years of my life, hands down, even freezing in a skirt," she said.

Largent said the hardest part was knowing that a big part of his life has changed.

"It's been a ride, I've been playing with these guys ever since we were little kids," he said.

Now, he will have to look for new teammates, on a college campus following graduation next spring.

"I'm not done playing football," he vowed.