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Defense Steps Up Game Against Calaveras In Varsity Victory
Football Shutout
Looking to follow a block, Matthew Baptista, left, keeps the ball tucked in on a run up the field as teammate Tate Christensen, 55, right, prepares to tackle the defender. Marg Jackson/The Times

After allowing 30 points in their first game, the varsity Cougar defense knew they needed to be better.

They were 30 points better this week, working to put a shutout on the board against visiting Calaveras in non-league play. The game featured a running clock in the fourth quarter as Escalon earned a 41-0 win.

“The defense played their butts off,” head coach Andrew Beam concurred. “Coach (Brandon) Hoover and the defensive coaches wanted to be better this week.”

Defense was the focus in practice and Beam said the players stepped up tremendously, holding Calaveras to under 100 total yards of offense.

That, while the Escalon offense was rolling to a half dozen touchdowns and more than 480 total yards.

The game was originally scheduled at Calaveras High School in San Andreas but poor air quality due to fires in Tuolumne and Calaveras counties forced the move to Escalon. Kickoff occurred with San Joaquin County staying just under the allowable AQI, Air Quality Index, threshold, so the teams were able to get the game in.

Escalon got touchdowns from several different players and scored in each quarter, with two touchdowns in the first and two more in the second for a 28-0 halftime lead. A score in the third made it 35-0 so that instituted the running clock for the final quarter. One more touchdown, minus the extra point, was put on the board in the fourth.

EJ Lewis and Matthew Baptista had two touchdowns apiece, while Logan Anderson and Jamin Miller each scored one.

“That just shows our versatility and our depth,” said Beam. “We spread the ball around and everyone contributed.”

First quarter scoring came on an 11-yard fade pass to EJ Lewis from quarterback Donovan Rozevink with the kick good to make it 7-0. After a fumble recovery by Caden Gonsalves on the next Calaveras possession, the Cougars turned that into a score as well.

“We got a 39-yard pass to Owen Nash from Rozevink that set up a 5-yard pass to EJ Lewis for his second touchdown of the night,” Beam explained.

The point after was good to make it 14-0 Cougars.

In the second quarter, Logan Anderson pulled in a 34-yard pass for the score and Matthew Baptista was on the receiving end of a 26-yard pass. The point after was good on each and the home team headed into the locker room with a 28-0 advantage.

A 42-yard run by Baptista in the third quarter was followed by the extra point to put Escalon up by a commanding 35-0 score.

That 35-point threshold means a running clock in the final quarter and Escalon put the cap on the win with a 3-yard rush by Jamin Miller in the fourth.

“It felt great,” sophomore Miller said of breaking through for his first varsity touchdown. “A special moment; our defense was great and this was a good win.”

The extra point attempt was no good as the snap went awry but not much else went wrong on the night for the Cougars.

“Our defense forced four turnovers, we got interceptions from Ryker Peters, Matthew Baptista and Tyler Medina,” Beam said, in addition to the fumble recovery by Gonsalves.

“There’s no words to describe it,” junior Ryker Peters said of helping secure the shutout, noting that the defense just seemed to click on Friday night and the preparation was a success. “Absolutely, we worked on it every single day.”

EJ Lewis was the leading tackler, busy all night on both sides of the ball, registering eight tackles against Calaveras. Peters added seven while Jamin Miller and Tate Christensen each had a sack.

“Our defense gave up one reception for six yards,” Beam pointed out of the tremendous effort. “They (Calaveras) had only 72 total yards to our 482.”

The Cougars capitalized on several of the turnovers and Beam said they were both excited and grateful to be playing, happy that Calaveras could arrange transportation for their team and that Engel Field was prepped and ready for the contest.

But, as always, there is room for improvement and things the team will work on this week.

“We had 11 penalties, we had more yards in penalties than they (Calaveras) had in offensive yards and at some point, that will come back to haunt you,” Beam said, noting the Cougars need to focus on cleaning up the mistakes, especially as they prepare for upcoming Trans-Valley League action.

This week’s schedule has the varsity squad heading to Sonora for a 7 p.m. kickoff on Friday, Sept. 3.

Junior wide receiver Owen Nash uses his height to make the catch up and over the Calaveras defender on Friday night, helping get the Cougars in position for a touchdown. Marg Jackson/The Times