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Final League Win Caps Perfect TVL Season For Cougars
Solid performances on both sides of the ball helped lift the Escalon varsity Cougars to a 31-15 win over host Modesto Christian on Friday night, Nov. 5, resulting in a perfect 5-0 league mark and championship honors for the football team.

"We accomplished three great things," head coach Mark Loureiro explained of the victory. "We got the TVL title outright, we got a little revenge (for losses last year) and we secured home field throughout the playoffs."

Escalon had just two losses last season and both were to the Crusaders, once during the regular season that knocked them into second place and once in the playoffs, a game that ended their season.

Avenging both the league title and making sure the Crusaders couldn't spoil their home field advantage for this year's playoffs made the win that much sweeter.

"I still say they are the second best team in the league and I'm not sure how they lost so many games," Loureiro said of the Crusaders, who had a hard time getting on track this season despite having superb athletes. "They played really well, this was their playoff game."

Escalon players agreed with their coach, noting the game was hard hitting and the Crusaders kept fighting until the end.

"We got up on them a little, we got conservative, I probably should have thrown a little more," Loureiro admitted of the game.

Modesto Christian took the early lead, on a 67-yard run by Dominic Dami in the first quarter. The point after attempt was blocked by Nate Caton.

Escalon answered, a 61-yard rumble by Adrian Cortes setting up a 10-yard touchdown run by Josh Miguel. The kick for the point after by Gino Franceschetti was good for a 7-6 Escalon lead. Miguel then recovered a fumble, setting up the second Cougar score. Franceschetti hooked up with Brandon Shaw on a 60-yard pass play, the kick was good and it was 14-6 Escalon.

Second quarter scoring saw a 5-yard run from Miguel for a touchdown, the kick was good, and Franceschetti added three more points on a 34-yard field goal to extend the Cougar lead, 24-6. Modesto Christian tacked on a 32-yard field goal late in the half to trail midway, 24-9.

In the third quarter, Shaw pulled in a 53-yard touchdown pass from Franceschetti and the kick was good to make it 31-9, and the Crusaders got a 45-yard touchdown reception in the fourth but the 2-point attempt failed, with the final 31-15 in favor of the visiting Cougars.

"Offensively we got a great game out of Brandon Shaw, two catches for 103 yards and two touchdowns, he also had five booming punts, two of them over 65 yards, and kicked off into the end zone two times," said Loureiro. "On defense, he had 14 tackles, he had a humongous night."

All that, despite being hampered a few times by cramps, twice being helped off the field by teammates.

Other big night for the Cougars came from Cortes, nine carries for 100 yards, Miguel, 21 carries for 92 yards and two touchdowns.

Defensive leaders were Victor Carrillo, 11 tackles; Tony Vincent, nine tackles, two sacks and a blocked punt; Shane Silveira, two sacks; Nate Caton, two sacks and a blocked extra point; James Hill and Gilberto Mancilla, each with a sack, fumble recoveries by Mancilla and Miguel and an interception by Joey Ratto.

"That stopped a touchdown drive," Loureiro said of Ratto's pick in the red zone.

"The defense was solid, it bent on Friday night but never broke and the kids made big plays when they had to," Loureiro said.

Escalon had 12 first downs on the night, 343 total yards on 38 rushes for 225 yards, 118 yards passing on 3-of-7 completions. They were penalized five times for 45 yards and did not fumble. Modesto Christian had 18 first downs, 459 yards, 38 rushes for 93 yards and 366 passing yards on 20-of-41 completions. They were penalized five times for 50 yards and lost two of three fumbles.

"We got the win, now we need to pick up the intensity," said junior Ian Fitzgerald, looking forward to the playoffs.

Added Shane Silveira, "We just need to have a solid week of practice. They're (Modesto Christian) a good team and I'm happy to get the win."

Senior Chad Hale said the team was satisfied with getting the win but know they have to be more focused for the playoff run.

"We have to practice harder, work harder," he said.

James Hill, one of this year's captains, felt the all around effort could have been better, and he is looking for a more determined Cougar squad to come out onto Engel Field on Friday.

"We'll be ready," Hill said.

Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.