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Escalon Holds Off Rested Ripon Squad, 31-14
Going up 21-0, Escalon's varsity football Cougars didn't put Ripon away as early as they wanted, but had more than enough firepower to contain the host Indians and brought a 31-14 win home from Stouffer Field on Friday.

It was all Escalon early on, after Ripon had to punt the ball away on its first possession. Matt Roberson capitalized at the end of Escalon's first drive of the game with a 4-yard touchdown run with 8:08 to go in the first quarter. Gino Franceschetti sent the extra point through for an early 7-0 lead. On the ensuing kickoff, the Indians fumbled and Garrett Wade was there to cover it, giving Escalon good field position and it didn't take long to hit paydirt on the turnover. Josh Miguel scored on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Franceschetti with 7:10 to go. The point after made it 14-0.

In the opening minute of the second quarter, Roberson found the end zone again on a 2-yard run, the kick was good for a 21-0 Cougar lead.

The teams traded possessions in the second, with Ripon finally breaking through on an 11-yard pass play with just 10 seconds to go in the half, trimming the lead to 21-7.

"What that score did was give them something to play for in the second half," said Escalon coach Mark Loureiro of Ripon. "I never felt the outcome of this game was in doubt, we didn't put them away when we had the chance but I never doubted we were going to win."

Ripon got a little closer with 4:43 left in the third, a 13-yard touchdown pass and extra point for a 21-14 contest. A fair catch called by Ian Fitzgerald on the kickoff sparked the Cougars, as he was drilled by the defense even after making the fair catch call.

Fitzgerald anticipated the hit, and said he hoped it would fire his team up.

"I tired to," he said. "I think sometimes we're still resting on last year's shoulders, especially the last two weeks, they've been easy games and we don't want to get too big of a head, we need to come out fast, this (Ripon game) was a good wake up call."

The Cougars kept the ball and turned the possession into three points, a field goal by Franceschetti with 11:50 to go in the final frame. That put the Cougars up 24-14. Franceschetti also added a key interception to stop a Ripon drive when they were at fourth and goal to go, and a later pick by Roberson set up Escalon's final touchdown.

"I just read the quarterback's eyes," Roberson said of coming up with the ball. He didn't score on the return, though he got close, but he did go in a few plays later from 7 yards out - carrying about five defenders with him - with 3:24 to go in the game. Franceschetti added the point after for the 31-14 final. Alec VonAlvensleben also got in on the interceptions, stopping Ripon's final drive with just over two minutes to play, getting the pick.

"Matt Roberson had a great game, he had 23 carries for 133 yards and three touchdowns, he had a big interception and he had six tackles," Loureiro said. "Gino had an all around great game for us, two interceptions on defense, a good job at quarterback, throwing a touchdown pass, and Ian Fitzgerald made a real heads up play on the fair catch, he took a shot there but he's been playing well for us and he had six tackles as well."

David Gonzales had seven tackles on the night and Tony Vincent was back from a wrist injury, recording six tackles and forcing several hurried throws by the QB. Fitzgerald and Robbie Steves earned praise from Loureiro for their blocking efforts in the fourth quarter.

"It was good for us to have to play four quarters," Loureiro said. "This was a big game for Ripon, they had two weeks to prepare for us, we jumped out on them quick and it's a credit to Ripon to see them battling back."

Escalon had 271 yards on the night, 215 of that on the ground and 56 passing yards on four-of-five completions. Ripon threw the ball 31 times with 13 completions and four interceptions. They had a total of 200 yards, 178 in the air and just 22 on the ground.

Josh Miguel was held in check after his early score, Ripon always having someone on him, so other players stepped up to handle the load.

"Our kids did a good job," Loureiro said.

Captain Nate Caton was lost in the second half, a leg just giving out on him and he was due for an MRI this week. His status for Friday's game at Orestimba is unknown.

The Warriors are 5-2 overall, 2-1 in league play and this will be the first time the Cougars have traveled to Newman to face them in several years. The squad is led by sophomore running back Steven Machado, quarterback Dillon Martins and top defensemen are Mark Bryant and Daniel Molina.

Kickoff for the varsity game will be about 7:30 p.m. on Friday.