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Defense Keys Effort In 24-14 League Win For Varsity Football
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Cougars Matthew Baptista, 6, in front, and Tyler Medina, 8, combine to disrupt the pass attempt for Hilmar during Friday night action at Engel Field. Baptista came down with the interception. Marg Jackson/The Times

Building up a 17-0 lead by the half, Escalon’s varsity Cougars kept Hilmar under control and sent the Yellowjackets away feeling the sting of defeat, 24-14. Escalon improved to 2-0 in Trans-Valley League play with the win.

After winning the toss and deferring, the host Cougars saw their defense take the spotlight.

“We had a huge three and out by the defense and then Nathan Chavez came through the middle, got a hand up there and blocked the punt,” head coach Andrew Beam said of the opening series. “Our big freshman Ryan Lewis did a scoop and score, running it into the end zone for the first touchdown of his high school career.”

The kick was good following the 6-yard run and Escalon had a 7-0 lead before actually going on offense.

“The defense was awesome, our defensive coaches worked hard all week with the kids and the defense was outstanding,” Beam said.

Escalon got an offensive touchdown in the second quarter, a short 1-yard pass from Donovan Rozevink to EJ Lewis. Right behind Lewis in the end zone was Logan Anderson; the ball could have been caught by either one, but it was intended for Lewis, who pulled it in. The kick was good for a 14-0 lead.

Following an interception by Matthew Baptista that stopped another Hilmar drive, the Cougars tried for the end zone a couple of times but, with time running down in the first half, settled for a field goal by Alfonzo Gonzalez, leading 17-0.

“That was important,” Beam said of getting the points late in the first half. “That’s a huge mountain to climb, needing thee scores in the second half.”

Hilmar has shown themselves to be a second half team and they did get a touchdown in the third, with the kick good, to make it 17-7.

But in the fourth quarter, a 19-yard connection between Rozevink and Lewis with the kick good made it 24-7.

“That settled everybody’s nerves, it was a three score game again,” Beam said.

Hilmar continued to fight and scored on a 23-yard run with just a few ticks of the clock remaining in the fourth. They added the point after but time expired with the Cougars on top, 24-14.

“The mindset was just be violent on the offensive line and the defense had to make plays,” said senior Caden Gonsalves.

He said they knew they would have to withstand a tough Hilmar push in the second half.

“I feel like we really accomplished that, our O-line did a great job controlling the line and we all did our jobs.”

Baptista agreed it was important to keep the Yellowjackets from getting any momentum.

“We had to play hard, we knew coming out we had two quarters left and I feel the defensive line really did a good job,” Baptista said.

Senior Sebastian Snow said it was everyone working together to seal the victory.

“I think we definitely pulled together as a team, the O-line, we hung out together all week, we bonded,” Snow said.

Leading the defense was Ryker Peters with nine tackles, including a huge hit on a running back that upset the game plan for the Yellowjackets, as that player did not return.

Tyler Medina, Javier Gutierrez and Matthew Baptista each had an interception and Ryan Lewis had a fumble recovery.

“The game changed right away with that blocked punt,” added Beam. “We put Hilmar in chase mode.”

Logan Anderson had 14 carries for 59 yards, Owen Nash had two catches for 56 yards including one big third down conversion, and EJ Lewis had three catches for 35 yards and two touchdowns. Donovan Rozevink was 8-for-16 for 134 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception.

This week, the Cougars will travel to Modesto Christian for a game on Friday, Oct. 8.

Scrambling toward the sideline, quarterback Donovan Rozevink keeps his eyes downfield looking for a receiver while being pursued by the Hilmar defense. Marg Jackson/The Times