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Cougars Send Wildcats Home - Escalon Pounds Way Past Sonora In Football Quarterfinal
Intermittent rain and a wet, sloppy field caused a few problems on Friday night for Escalon's football Cougars, but nothing they couldn't overcome.

The varsity squad put away Sonora 28-7 to advance to the semifinal round, hosting Central Catholic this Friday.

The visiting Wildcats, with fans in the stands protected by pop-ups and bringing lots of noisemakers with them, struck first, scoring on their second possession of the night. The score came after recovering an Escalon fumble at the 37-yard line, a nice pass completion and then a 1-yard plunge from Brandon Camara.

With the point after going through the uprights, it was 7-0 Sonora with 6:47 to go in the first.

In a season where they have won every game so far, the Cougars responded to the early Sonora lead by answering back on their next drive. Jason Robbins picked up some healthy yardage on the kickoff return, with a reception by Matt Roberson and a first down carry by Josh Miguel getting the Cougars to within range. A 39-yard catch and run by Miguel, pulling in the pass from quarterback Gino Franceschetti, got the Cougars on the board. Franceschetti added the point after and with 4:23 left in the first, it was tied, 7-7.

"Getting used to that type of offense (triple option) had us on our heels for the first five minutes of the game," head coach Mark Loureiro said of facing Sonora. "But once they saw it, got comfortable, the defense settled in."

Loureiro said it was hugely important for his team to answer back quickly when Sonora took the lead, giving the squad some confidence and getting the crowd behind them.

Escalon would end up putting one ball in the end zone in each of the four quarters. Miguel scored on a 42-yard run, kick good by Franceschetti, with 4:15 to play in the second quarter, going up 14-7.

Sonora was poised to tie it headed into halftime, with a fourth and goal from the 11 with 37 seconds left after taking an ill-timed penalty. But a pass, with good defense from Miguel, fell incomplete in the end zone and the host Cougars had the one touchdown lead at the half.

"It's just all about heart," senior Franceschetti said of the performance by all players in the big time game. "We don't quit, we worked everything out and got our adjustments down."

Franceschetti said though it was unfamiliar territory, the Cougars didn't panic when they fell behind early.

"We knew there was a lot of game left," he said. "You can't judge a game by the first touchdown. We bent, bent and bent, but we didn't break."

Second half scores for Escalon came in the third quarter, a 1-yard keeper by Franceschetti and the point after with 2:13 left in the third to make it 21-7.

"That was a signature Escalon drive, 11 plays, 72 yards, we took six to seven minutes off the clock," Loureiro noted of the drive.

Miguel, who rushed 21 times for 207 yards, said he and teammate Matt Roberson had room to run.

"A big shout out to our line," Miguel said. "Our offensive blocks, they opened up plenty of holes."

Roberson added that the early Sonora strike just motivated the team to work harder and he also said the offensive line was crucial.

"They really stepped up, we got holes we hadn't had all year," Roberson explained.

Escalon's Matt Ratto stepped in front of a Dylan Fernandes pass with 2:44 to play in the fourth quarter, setting up the final touchdown of the night. Roberson took it in from a yard out and the kick was good for the 28-7 final.

Center Daniel Alcantor, emotional after the victory, offered praise to the Cougar defense for holding the line, admitting to a couple of fumbled snaps to Franceschetti.

"I can't thank my defense enough, they definitely saved me tonight," he said.

Loureiro said the conditions played somewhat of a role in the miscues, but agreed that mistakes like that can't happen from here on out because only the elite teams remain and mistakes can end the season.

Defensive leaders for the Cougars were Franceschetti, with 11 tackles from his free safety position; Ian Fitzgerald with nine tackles, Matt Ratto with nine tackles and an interception. Tony Vincent had two sacks, Shane Silveira had one and David Gonzales had a sack as well.

"It was assignment football," Loureiro pointed out. "Play your position, do your job. I'm really proud of all the kids."

Offensively, Miguel had his 200-plus yards and one reception for 39 yards, scoring twice. Roberson had 16 rushes for 86 yards and a score. Franceschetti was 4-for-6 in passing for 49 yards and also got in the end zone. Escalon had 43 rushing plays for 294 yards and 16 first downs, with 343 total yards on the night. They fumbled three times and lost it twice and were penalized three times for 20 yards. Loureiro pointed to offensive line standouts Alan Gonzalez, Tony Vincent, Brent Montgomery, Daniel Alcantor, Shane Silveira and Chris Kowalski as all working well, with tight ends Andrew Zavala and Alex Loureiro also earning praise.

Sonora had seven first downs, 266 total yards on 157 rushing yards on 40 plays, with 109 passing yards on 6-of-9 completions with one interception. They fumbled twice but got it back both times and were penalized seven times for 55 yards.

"Defensively, we had one of our best games, to slow their offense down," Loureiro added.

The crowd, though numbers kept a little lower by the rain, were vocal and supportive and Loureiro said they need to turn out again, as the Cougars look to win their clash with Central and return to the Section title game.

"This will be another major, major game," he said.

Kickoff will be at 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 25.