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Yellowjackets Loom - Cougars Make Beeline For Section Title Battle
The stage is set for Friday night's showdown, as two Trans-Valley League teams fight it out on the gridiron for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV crown.

Escalon vs. Hilmar.

It's a rivalry that goes back several years, with notable contests in the last decade. Twice, the Yellowjackets defeated Escalon for the league title, only to lose later in the season at the Section level. The Cougars are looking to win the Section crown for the second consecutive year but know the green and gold squad on the other side of the line of scrimmage is going to do all it can to keep that from happening.

"Nobody has played us tougher," head coach Mark Loureiro said of facing Hilmar again.

When the teams met in Hilmar on Oct. 28, the Cougars came away with a 10-0 victory, the only time the Yellowjackets were held scoreless this season and one of only two losses for the team. The other came in preseason play.

"We're the only team that's beaten them since week one," Loureiro noted.

With a semifinal win, 24-17 over Central Catholic on Nov. 25, the Cougars ran their winning streak to 25 games. They would like nothing better than to make it 26.

"It's always tough beating somebody twice in the same season," Loureiro admitted. "You look back, in 2003 and 2005, they beat us for the league title, we beat them for the Section crown, I'm sure they're playing that up in their locker room."

The Yellowjackets come in with all guns blazing, their game working on all levels. They mix a spread offense with a Power I and use both effectively, scoring an average of 37 points per game. Escalon, with the exception of senior captain Nate Caton, out with season-ending surgery, has all its weapons intact as well and comes in averaging 43 points per game.

Undefeated this season and still in the running to return to defend their state crown in a bowl game, Loureiro said he is sure his players will stay focused on the task at hand for Friday night, and not look ahead to the possibility of a trip to Carson in mid-December.

"We won't overlook Hilmar," he said.

Game time Friday night at Lincoln High School in Stockton is 7:30 p.m.

Pre-sale tickets will be available at Escalon High School in the counseling center from Lori Lippincott on Thursday, Dec. 1 from noon to 3:30 p.m., cash only. Adult tickets are $10, cost for senior citizens and students is $6.

Ticket booths open at 5 p.m. Friday at Lincoln, gates open at 5:30 p.m. and Escalon will be on the 'home' side of the field, the press box side, with kickoff at 7:30 p.m.

There is a $5 parking fee and T-shirts will also be available for $15.

The Yellowjackets, coached by Frank Marques, come in at 11-2 and have leaders in quarterback Andrew Olson (6-2, 185) who has thrown for 1,530-plus yards and 23 touchdowns on the year. Leading rushers are Garrett Jericoff (5-9, 180) with 108 carries for 773 yards and nine touchdowns, Zack Giuliano (6-1, 190) with 37 carries for 237 yards and seven touchdowns. Leading receivers are Ryan White (5-10, 165) 18 catches for 387 yards, six TDs and Jonathan O'Brien (6-1, 180) who has pulled down 19 balls for 337 yards and three scores.

Defensive leaders are linemen Corey Bayer (6-2, 230), Austin Almeida (6-0, 245) and defensive end Tyler Juncker (6-1, 185).

Loureiro said his team, after coming from behind to take down Central Catholic in the semifinal and run this year's record to 13-0, is ready for one more challenge.

"It really says something about this league, how tough it is, to have an all-Trans-Valley League Section final," Loureiro said.