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Cougars Maul Lions For Homecoming Victory
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True to the task put before them by coach Mark Loureiro, Escalon's varsity football team made Friday night's Homecoming a sweet one for the Cougar fans, upending Linden by a 52-13 decision.

Though they lost the toss and received the first half kickoff - Loureiro typically likes to get the ball to start the second half - the Cougars made it work for them, eating up half of the first quarter with a sustained drive that featured runs from Marcus Savage, Gus Arzac and a couple of completed passes to Jason Chandley. The drive culminated at the 5:45 mark with a 3-yard run into the end zone by Arzac. Chris Diniz put the extra point through for an early 7-0 lead.

Loureiro knew going in that Linden had a potentially explosive offense and one of his keys to the game was keeping that offense off the field, having the Cougars maintain possession of the ball.

"There was no question about it, that was the key and our opening drive was good for that," said Loureiro. "In the last two years, they've jumped out on their opponents and we had to make sure to control the ball, keep the offense off the field."

Loureiro said he was especially pleased with the game plan for the Cougars, mixing up the pass and the run, with good blocking featured throughout the contest.

"I thought we did a great job in that first half, they (Linden) can get pretty lethal pretty quick and we needed those points we scored," Loureiro said.

After the first score, Diniz pinned the Lions at their own 20, sending his first kickoff into the end zone. He would put eight of nine kickoffs into the end zone before the night was over.

Linden threw an incomplete pass, then gained some yardage on the ground before a fumble that was recovered by Mike Sawyer put the ball back in Cougar hands.

Making up some yardage, the Cougars faced a fourth and one at the 4:35 mark and Loureiro went for it, the squad converting and getting new life, which led to another Arzac score. This one came with 2:54 to play in the first, Arzac running in from three yards out. A penalty was assessed following an false start call against Escalon on the first point after attempt, Diniz calmly added the extra yardage on and sent the ball through the uprights for a 14-0 lead.

Another Linden drive was cut short by a fumble, recovered by Escalon, and the home team kept the ball into the second quarter, with Jason Chandley pulling in a 6-yard pass from quarterback Andrew Beam for the score at the 9:29 mark. The kick was good for a 21-0 advantage.

The Cougars took a blow on the play, though, as two-way starter Mike Sawyer went down with a knee injury and had to be helped off the field. He was taken to the hospital and it's uncertain how much time he will miss due to ligament damage in the left knee.

Tightening down, the Cougars put some more points on the board before the half, Beam making the most of his ability by scrambling away from the Linden defense on a fourth and three situation, finding Anthony Suniga in the end zone and hitting him with a 35-yard pass for the score. Diniz kicked the point after, Escalon took a 28-0 lead with 6:31 to play.

Linden went three and out on their next possession, Escalon returned the favor and made their first punt of the night with 3:15 left in the first half. Linden didn't have enough gas to get to the end zone, though, and the Cougars enjoyed a comfortable half-time lead.

Linden took the second half kick-off and went on a drive that resulted in a 15-yard scoring run with 9:54 to play in the third quarter. With the extra point, they trimmed the lead to 28-7. The Cougars got it right back, Beam completing a series with runs from Arzac and Savage and another completion to Suniga with Arzac scoring from 3 yards out. Diniz added the kick to make it 35-7.

The home team was quick to capitalize on another Linden fumble and this time it was Jason Chandley who broke free on a 19 yard run, Diniz adding the kick for a 42-7 edge with 2:52 to play in the third.

"We hurt them on the ground, Andrew Beam had an excellent game and our kicking game was solid," noted Loureiro. "You can never say you played a perfect game but there were times Friday night when we did play perfectly."

Linden got their second touchdown of the game with just a few seconds remaining in the third quarter, taking advantage of a 15-yard penalty against the Cougars and scoring on a 5 yard run. The kick failed, making it 42-13.

In the fourth quarter, Escalon put a few more points on the board, Diniz hitting a field goal from 42 yards out to make it 45-13 with 8:09 to play. Justin Chandley got the final score on a 1-yard run with 1:23 to play, Diniz added the point after for the 52-13 final.

"Andrew Beam put together by far his best game of the season," said Loureiro. "He was eight-for-12 in passing for 151 yards and two touchdowns."

Arzac also had a huge night, rolling up 113 yards and scoring three touchdowns, Jason Chandley caught four passes and had four carries, scoring two touchdowns, along with blocking well.

"Jake Brown, Tim Kelly, Frank Kaech, Anthony Oste, Steve Gentry, that whole front played really well for us," said Loureiro. "Defensively, Arzac, Jesse Jimenez, Jason Chandley and Suniga were our leading tacklers, Marcus Savage, Ryan Lippincott, Mike Sawyer and Jason Chandley had the fumble recoveries for us."

And even though the win was convincing, Loureiro said Linden's offense was scary and when it was on, made life tough for the Cougars.

"There were times in the third quarter where we looked like we hadn't played defense before," he said. "You just had that feeling they could do something big...but with good teams you've got to take care of the football in big games."

Key were the four fumble recoveries on five Linden fumbles. Escalon fumbled once but recovered the ball.

Suniga was the leading receiver on the night.

"He had two beautiful catches," said Loureiro. "One was for a touchdown, the other was for a big first down."

Loureiro congratulated the team in the post-game huddle Friday night but said the road only gets harder from here.

"Enjoy this win Friday, Saturday and Sunday but now we're ready to go to bigger things," Loureiro said. "We're in this thing together, let's work together as a family."

The Cougars will take their 4-0 mark on the road this week, heading to Tuolumne City to face off against Summerville on Friday, Oct. 8. League play begins with a home game against Hughson on Oct. 15.