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Cougar Gridders Gear Up For New Opponents
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Escalon is gearing up for defense of its Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV football crown and, like most years, head coach Mark Loureiro knows his Cougars are on everyone's radar.

For Escalon, this year is already starting out a little different, with the school resuming classes a week ahead of its previous schedule. The first day of school was Monday, Aug. 16 and that's also the first day the team was allowed to get on the field for practice. In past years, Escalon has had a week of practice before school began.

"That first week of school, the kids were really tagged," Loureiro admitted. "They're drained, both physically and mentally but we have to live through it one time to figure out how to do it better next year."

The Cougars have a few different teams on the schedule this year than in the past, though Trans-Valley League match ups will remain the same.

No battle is featured with Manteca this year, a preseason game that had become a major rivalry.

"We had to redraw games three, four and five with teams in the Mother Lode bracket and we just didn't match up with Manteca this year," explained Loureiro.

Escalon will kick off the preseason with its traditional scrimmage with Calaveras, this time the Cougars traveling to San Andreas for the Sept. 3 contest.

Games begin on Friday, Sept. 10 with the Cougars hosting West Campus. They will play at Capital Christian of Sacramento on Sept. 17, facing two teams they have never seen before.

"It's always nice to go to different places, see new teams, but we don't know anything about them, just like they don't know about us," Loureiro said. "We might get off to a slow start this year."

Escalon will travel to Angels Camp to play Bret Harte on Sept. 24, then host Linden in the Homecoming game on Oct. 1. Then it's off to Tuolumne City to play Summerville on Oct. 8.

League action begins with a home game against rival Hughson on Oct. 15, followed by road trips to Hilmar on Oct. 22 and Ripon on Oct. 29. Home games close out the regular season, hosting Livingston on Nov. 5 and Patterson on Nov. 12.

"This year our league is the same but each of the leagues will be expanding," Loureiro said. "Not next year but the year after that, then things will change dramatically."

This season, however, the Cougars will meet up with some new faces and square off against familiar foes hoping to get to the postseason.

While the varsity and JV teams head to San Andreas for the scrimmage on Sept. 3, the freshmen will be on the road Saturday, Sept. 4 for the Hughson Carnival.