In a game where the home team was highly favored – and even scheduled their Homecoming as part of the anticipated celebration – the Escalon varsity football Cougars stunned the host Downey Knights on Friday, Sept. 13. It was a 49-20 Escalon victory, a game that featured a running clock in the fourth quarter and the chance to get the second unit in for some action before the final whistle.
Head coach Andrew Beam, in his second year at the helm, said it might be the biggest win of his career so far.
“I don’t know if it’s the biggest, I just know that I’m incredibly proud of every guy on our team,” Beam said. “Our boys came to practice on Monday locked in and ready to go.”
He also pointed to extra time and effort put in by the coaching staff and a huge ‘white out’ of support by the Cougar fans in the stands at Downey on Friday night.
“I have to give a shout out to the crowd,” Beam said. “We had over 100 students that wore the white ‘E’ T-shirts and it was awesome to have that support.”
Practice, effort and focus were all part of the equation that made the difference for the team, he added.
Escalon had 541 total yards of offense on 50 plays; Downey had 312 yards on 60 plays.
“Our defense played unbelievable and our offensive line just played awesome,” Beam said.
He said the O-line, which has come under the harshest scrutiny so far this season, just “got after it” from the first possession.
“We had 471 rushing yards,” he pointed out of the push that the O-line gave to the runners.
Logan Webster, Mitchell Cole, David Camacho, PJ Flores, Alonzo Teixeira and Damien Tom all got kudos from their coach.
A huge defensive stop just before halftime also made a difference, as Downey was to receive the second half kickoff and the Cougars stopping them without a late first half score kept the momentum in Escalon’s corner. Jacob Walden was huge on the defensive side for the Cougars throughout the night.
Escalon scored first on a 13-yard run by Colton Panero, set up by a 57-yard rumble from Luke Anderson on the first Cougar possession of the night. The kick was good for an early 7-0 lead, with 10:28 to play in the opening quarter.
Downey countered with a scoring drive of their own but the 2-point attempt was no good, making it 7-6 with 8:02 left in the first.
After trading punts, Escalon made it 14-6 on an 80-yard run from Kaden Christensen and the point after from Brayan Barrientos. The Cougars made it 21-6 in the first quarter on a 72-yard run from Anderson, kick good by Barrientos.
“We had 241 yards rushing in the first quarter,” Beam noted.
One touchdown in the second quarter gave the Cougars a 28-6 lead, Anderson scoring on a 5-yard run.
It was 42-14 at the end of the third quarter, with the referees enacting the running clock for the fourth quarter. Christensen scored both touchdowns for the Cougars in the third quarter, one on a 4-yard run and one on a 49-yard run. Downey scored and made the 2-point conversion to make it a 42-14 game but Escalon added the final score in the fourth, Christensen on a 4-yard run and the kick good. The Knights added a late score but the 2-point conversion failed, making it a 49-20 final.
“It was pretty surreal to have a running clock and our second string was able to close out the game,” Beam said.
Anderson had 17 carries for 210 yards rushing and two touchdowns; Christensen had 13 carries for 175 yards and four touchdowns. Panero carried the ball seven times for 76 yards and a TD. Kaidence Trejo caught two passes for 45 yards. Quarterback Ty Harris was 4-for-6 passing for 70 yards.
“We were firing on all cylinders, my first thought is I am so proud of my team, how we were able to analyze (Downey) and I felt like we were ready for whatever they did,” Panero said. “It was pretty cool to have a top large school and a top small school, we were the underdog but we came out on top; I like being the underdog, it drives you to become better.”
Bryan Hale added that the week was filled with tough practices that paid off in the end.
Watching film, he said, they discovered what type of game Downey would be likely to play and, when game time came, the Cougars were ready for it.
“Everything fell in to place,” Hale said.
“We knew we would be in for a dogfight,” added Anderson. “But we came out and played our game.”
That game lifted the Cougars – and their fans – to lofty heights.
“I can’t even describe it,” admitted Christensen. “It’s electric out here and the game’s over, those fans were a huge part of our success tonight and I am proud of them and the community that stands behind us.”
Escalon now goes on its bye week, having this Friday night off from competition before gearing up for the start of Trans-Valley League play. They will go to Hilmar – where they will look to avenge a pair of losses to the Yellowjackets last season – for their TVL opener on Friday, Sept. 27.