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Cougars Sting Yellowjackets In Crucial TVL Contest
It was a night where the Cougars struck early and often, jumping out to a 14-0 lead and never letting the Yellowjackets get much going offensively.

Escalon, coming off a bye week, went back to the drawing board in their extra week of practice to tune up defensively in preparation for visiting Hilmar, after surrendering 28 points to Orestimba in a 56-28 win on Oct. 5.

Things started out well for the visitors, as they won the toss and elected to kick off, guaranteeing themselves getting the ball to start the second half.

After allowing a couple of first down plays on Escalon's first possession, the Cougars had to punt and Hilmar took over at the 21-yard line with 8:27 to play in the first quarter. Their hold on the ball was short-lived, having to punt it away just 29 seconds later after a quick three and out.

A short Escalon possession ended with a punt but a costly Yellowjacket turnover gave the host team great field position with 5:05 to go in the first and Nathan Chunn rumbled 10 yards to the end zone for the first of his three touchdowns on the night. With the kick by Thomas Diniz good for the point after, with 3:55 to play in the first, it was 7-0 Cougars.

After another three and out for Hilmar, Escalon found the end zone again, this time Josh Redding running it in from 25 yards out on a sweep and the kick good by Diniz for a 14-0 lead.

Some nice yardage from senior running back Jesus Izazaga on Hilmar's next possession and a pass completion from quarterback Beau Balswick to Tyler Robinson set up Breck Smith's rushing touchdown and capped a nine-play, 55 yard drive to paydirt. The kick was good and the Yellowjackets cut the lead in half with 5:47 left in the second quarter. Unfortunately for Hilmar, that was as close as they would get, and the host Cougars put the clamps on with a decisive 33-7 win on Friday night.

"This was a big one for our confidence," said head coach Mark Loureiro. "We had a great week of practice, and the revenge factor helps."

Hilmar defeated Escalon last year in the Section title game, ending the Cougars' season. Most of those suited up for the Friday night game remembered that feeling and didn't want to repeat it.

"This was also our Senior Night, a special night, some of these kids have been playing on that (Engel) field since their Pop Warner days and you want to get a win," said the coach.

Pre-game ceremonies honored the senior players, cheerleaders and their parents for their dedication to the team over the years.

Escalon answered on its next possession after the Hilmar touchdown, on a 17-yard pass play from quarterback Phillip Kimble to Alec VonAlvensleben, good for the score. The Yellowjackets blocked the extra point attempt after a bad snap, but Escalon had a 20-7 lead at the half.

Taking the second half kickoff, Hilmar's first play from scrimmage was a pass that was picked off by Johnathon Costa and set up another Chunn touchdown, a 14-yard reception and the kick good for a 27-7 margin.

Another three and out for Hilmar gave the Cougars some breathing room and Kimble then did a nice job of scrambling away from the defense to find VonAlvensleben, who went up and over three Yellowjackets, on a big reception that set up Chunn's 5-yard run into the end zone for the final score of the night. The kick was no good but a 33-7 lead was more than enough for the Cougars.

"We played a great third quarter," said Loureiro. "We got a lot of kids into this game, a lot of seniors, it was just a big win for us."

Chunn had 22 carries for 147 yards and one catch for 14 yards with three touchdowns. VonAlvensleben had four catches, good for 101 yards and also had a touchdown catch, making his grabs while often being double teamed. Kimble was 6-for-9 passing for 113 yards and two touchdowns. Jason Robbins had a couple big carries as well.

Defensively, Costa had 11 tackles and an interception, Josh Redding had seven tackles and Lance Davis added six. Jacob Salvador had a fumble recovery that set up a touchdown and Luis Estrada had a fumble recovery to stop a Hilmar drive. Escalon had 320 yards of offense to Hilmar's 184.

"This was a great game for our defense," senior Costa said. "To play strong, all four quarters, now we keep going."

VonAlvensleben said he has been effective because people are spending so much time watching Chunn.

"He gets a lot of focus so that gives me and Flip (Phillip Kimble) a little bit of room to work," Von Alvensleben explained. "I just focus on the ball."

Davis said the bye week was key, as he feels the Cougars got back on track.

"I think we came out focused and it feels good, it was sweet revenge," he said.

For Loureiro, the bonus was getting so many players involved.

"Josh Redding got in there with three carries for 30 yards and had a nice kickoff return, we got Tyler Lawrence some more minutes on defense and Ben Hood played well, we also got good minutes off the bench from Vince Valenzuela," Loureiro said of the total team effort.

Now, the team heads to Modesto Christian as the squads battle for the right to host a playoff game. Both come in at 3-1 in the Trans-Valley League, both with a league loss to Ripon.

"They beat Hughson 30-28 in a very exciting game this week and they have some very athletic kids," Loureiro said of Modesto Christian. "This is a pivotal game."