Friday night is arguably the biggest night of football for the Escalon Cougars and their fans in quite a while.
At 4-0 in Trans-Valley League play, the Cougars will host the rival Ripon Indians, also with a 4-0 record. The winner of Friday night’s showdown at Engel Field claims the TVL title.
“Every other team in league has two losses or more,” said head coach Andrew Beam.
And with just two games left on the schedule, no one can catch either the Cougars or the Indians so the title will be decided in the head-to-head match.
“We have not won an outright TVL title since 2011,” Beam added.
There have been a couple of co-championships since then but not a sole claim to the league title in 10 years.
“What better opponent to have in this winner-take-all,” Beam said.
Ripon lost its first two games of the season but since then has gone on a six-game winning streak. Escalon has just one loss on its record, a non-league thrashing by Kimball. But both teams are 4-0 in league and eager to nail down the title.
“I think our guys are focused, we have been preparing and we are very excited for the opportunity,” the coach said.
The Indians are now 6-2 while the Cougars are 7-1 overall.
“Ripon has probably the oldest, most mature team in the TVL, they start 10 seniors of defense and nine on offense,” Beam said.
But what his players may lack in that varsity experience, the coach said there are other factors that will come into play.
“It will be our youth and out athleticism against their experience and size,” he said, noting that Ripon has one of the biggest teams in the league this season as well. “I suspect it will be a low-scoring game because these are also the two best defenses in the league.”
Friday night also features the ‘Tiny Cougars’ youth cheerleading performance, so parking and seating will be at a premium.
“I anticipate it’s going to be packed,” agreed Beam.
Both sides of the field will be full, as Ripon is just a short distance away.
“This is what we all missed with COVID,” Beam said of the intense rivalry and the chance to play in a game with meaning.
“Our student body is excited, the town is buzzing,” added Beam. “It’s going to be fun and a great opportunity for our players.”
Kickoff will be about 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 22 for the TVL title contest.