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Championship Season For JV Football Cougars

Completing a perfect season, Escalon's junior varsity football team claimed the Trans-Valley league championship on Friday night at Modesto Christian. The game pitted two undefeated teams against each other on the field and only Escalon walked away still perfect, capping their season with a convincing 35-7 win over the host Crusaders. Still, the game didn't start off quite the way the JV cougars and their fans expected. "Modesto Christian took the opening kickoff and they ran it right back through the middle," coach Randy Northcutt said. "It was an 87-yard kickoff return to start the game." The kick was good and, with just a few seconds off the clock and most of the fans still finding a seat, Escalon found themselves trailing 7-0. And while they might not have quite been ready for that, Northcutt said once MC got on the board, the young Cougars were ready to roll. "That kind of struck the match to light the fire," the coach said of the kickoff return. From there, the Cougar defense held Modesto Christian to just 37 yards rushing in the first quarter, 10 in the second, 15 in the third an 67 in the fourth. "We pounded the ball in the first quarter, they couldn't stop us," Northcutt said. Modesto Christian got the early lead but Escalon answered back with a 1-yard touchdown run in the first quarter from Steve Silva. He also took in the 2-point conversion to make it 8-7. In the second quarter, Jason Diniz had a 33-yard intersection return that he ran back for a touchdown. The kick failed but the JV squad had the 14-7 lead. A little later in the quarter, Diniz was on the receiving end of a 31-yard touchdown pass from Spencer Franceschetti. This time the kick was good and it was 21-7 Escalon at the half. "We controlled the ball from the beginning," Northcutt said. Second half scoring saw Franceschetti and Diniz hook up again, this time on a 24-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter. The kick by Diniz was good to make it 28-7 and the Cougars capped the scoring in the fourth quarter with a 3-yard run by Silva. The kick was good and it was 35-7. A 50-yard field goal attempt by Diniz late in the game was blocked, the Crusaders avoiding getting hit with a few more points allowed. Both the offense and defense were dominating for Escalon, with five interceptions by the JV Cougars on the night. Four of them belonged to Diniz, one was picked off by David Pickhartz. Escalon had 14 first downs on the night to MC's six and the JV Cougars had a total of 347 yards when the special teams play was figured in. They had 69 yard passing on three completions, with 42 rushing plays for 167 yards. Modesto Christian had 24 rushing plays for 125 yards and completed just four of 16 pass attempts for 44 yards. With their special teams yardage figured in, the Crusaders had 232 yards of offense on the night. Silva had 22 carries for 95 yards with one kickoff return for 37 yards. Robert Ladiges had two carries for 4 yards, Diniz had six rushes for 62 yards, four interceptions and two catches for 55 yards. He scored three touchdowns on the night and averaged 48 yards on each kickoff. "Silva did a nice job running the ball, Spencer Franceschetti did a good job running the plays and our offensive line was fantastic," Northcutt said. "But it was the Diniz show." Along with his offensive exploits, Diniz was also the third leading tackler on the team Friday night. Nick Largent and Jason Johnstad led the team in that category, each coming up with seven tackles. Largent also had three assists. Travis Cardoza got high marks for his defensive play, as did Pickhartz and Adam Jefferson, working hard to contain the MC quarterback. Cordero Bryand had a fumble recovery, Andres Ortega notched a sack and Nijoel Meyer did an excellent job at his nose guard position. "They played the way they needed to to win a championship," Northcutt said. "It was a good championship game to watch and we had a great season."