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Familiar Opponent Awaits Cougars In Football Playoffs
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Meeting at midfield for the coin toss prior to the regular season finale on Nov. 1 are Escalon and Hughson team captains; the two teams will meet again on Nov. 15, this time in the playoffs. Escalon captains shown here are, Damien Tom 54, Colton Panero 2, Kaden Christensen 3, Jacob Walden 50. Marg Jackson/The Times

It might seem a little bit like déjà vu – Escalon will suit up for Friday night football this week and take on the Hughson Huskies in the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.

Escalon, entering the Division VI playoffs as the top seed, had a first round bye. Hughson, meanwhile, came in as No. 9 and traveled to No. 8 Linden for a first round game on Nov. 8, defeating the Lions by a 49-27 final.

“Linden has a lot of good players but a lot of them are sophomores,” Escalon head coach Andrew Beam said, noting that several coaches and players made the trip to nearby Linden for the game, scouting both teams. The more experienced Hughson team proved a little too tough for the host Lions, setting up the Huskies-Cougars rematch.

“It will be two weeks to the day since we last played them,” Beam added, with the Cougars defeating Hughson in the Nov. 1 regular season finale.

Now, it’s win or go home.

“There are no secrets, we just have to execute and do our job,” the coach said.

It is always difficult to beat a team twice in one season, Beam said, and even more so when it is a familiar opponent, a Trans-Valley League rival.

Escalon, however, was able to use their bye week to rest some players, heal some hurts, watch film and get ready to head back into battle.

“If there was ever a time to get a bye week, this was it,” Beam said.

He is hoping to have the bulk of his players back, the majority at full strength, for the Friday night playoff contest at Engel Field.

As far as the game plan, the coach said they are literally preparing for Hughson to throw the kitchen sink at them.

“Expect an onside kick, expect a trick play,” Beam said. “We feel that Hughson might do some radical things on both offense and defense.”

The team that makes the quickest adjustments and plays the cleanest game is the one that likely will move on to the next round – the semifinals are scheduled for Nov. 22. If Escalon wins, they would move on to face the winner of the No. 4 Golden Sierra - No. 5 Sonora contest.

First, though, the Cougars have to take down the rival Huskies a second time. The game will be in Escalon, the Cougars having home field advantage due to the top seed. Big crowds are expected on both sides of the field, with Hughson just a short drive away.

“We have to be on our toes the whole time,” explained Beam.

Kickoff is at 7 p.m. and gates will open at 6:30 p.m.; ticket prices are increased and are set by the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section. Costs are $12 for adults, $5 for students.

After traveling to Linden to watch the Linden-Hughson game on Nov. 8, several of the football players also headed over to Ripon High School on Saturday afternoon, Nov. 9 to cheer on the varsity volleyball girls.

“They have supported us this season, the kids have been good about cheering each other on,” Beam said. “We saw their success and that just makes us crave it even more.”

The football players witnessed some history, as the volleyball team won the Section title for the first time in the 100 years of EHS.

Now, the coach said, the football team will begin its pursuit of a blue banner.

“This is still a TVL rivalry,” summarized Beam of the game against Hughson, “but the stakes are a lot higher.”