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Gridiron Redemption - Escalon Downs Patterson In Battle Of Heavyweights
A defense that wouldn't flinch and an offense that found just enough added up to a thrilling 14-7 win for Escalon on the road Friday at Patterson, avenging last season's only loss.

"To me, it was like a heavyweight fight, we withstood their best shots in the first half," said coach Mark Loureiro, noting that the Tigers ran 35 offensive plays in the first half but failed to reach the end zone. Escalon had 15 first half plays as the defenses took center stage.

"We had two real nice drives in the second half, got up 14-0 and then got a little conservative, let our defense take over again," said Loureiro.

Patterson struck in the fourth quarter but their final drive stalled - a nice punt return negated by a penalty - and the Cougars took a hard-fought, well-deserved victory off the field.

"We stepped up big time," said Matt Roberson, who carried the ball into the end zone both times for the Cougars. "We did our job."

Patterson had not seen a team like Escalon in their first three contest this season, and the bumps, bruises and injured players limping off the field was testament to that.

Escalon, meanwhile, was challenged like they hadn't been before either, said Loureiro.

"Both these teams will go deep into the playoffs," the coach predicted.

Patterson had 98 yards of offense with seven first downs in the first half on Friday, Escalon had just two first downs and 43 yards in the first half. But the Cougars took the second half kickoff and mounted their first scoring drive of the game, going on a methodical march with Josh Miguel and Roberson doing the bulk of ball carrying, converting on a 4-yard rush by Roberson with 10:18 to go in the third quarter. The kick by Gino Franceschetti was good for a 7-0 lead.

The Cougar defense stuffed Patterson on their next possession and with 8:35 to play in the third, Escalon got the ball back. Going on a nearly six-and-a-half minute drive, the Cougars saw Roberson go in again, kick good, with 2:01 to go in the third to make it 14-0. Quarterback Franceschetti did some nice scrambling to help keep the drive alive.

Patterson broke through on a 5-yard pass play with 3:04 to go in the fourth and the kick was good to make it 14-7 but the ensuing onside kick attempt was covered by Ian Fitzgerald to give Escalon the ball. They did have to punt and Patterson got the ball with 1:41 to go in the game but a series of four incomplete passes gave Escalon the ball back on the 15-yard line with just a minute to go and the Cougars were able to take a knee and preserve the win.

"There were a lot of big hits, this was tough, Patterson came out with heart and fire and it was like a war for us," said senior Nate Caton, happy to have avenged the only loss he has known as a varsity player. "It was special for us, this was redemption."

Senior Josh Miguel echoed the sentiments, pointing to the outstanding work of the defense.

"They had 35 plays to our 15 in the first half, our defense stepped up big ... we waited a whole year for this. We knew one touchdown wasn't going to win this, they have some great players on their team but we just played with so much heart."

For quarterback Franceschetti, the win was sweet as well.

"All I ever wanted to do was beat Patterson, since last year," he said. "The atmosphere was great, our defense won the game for us and the offense picked it up in the second half. I've just never been so proud of our defense."

Coach Loureiro said the game came down to "our discipline against their athletic ability" and the disciplined game of the Cougars won out in the end.

"That's Escalon football," Loureiro said of starting the second half off with a scoring drive. "We couldn't have drawn it up any better."

Roberson continues to get better every game, giving opposing defenses more than they can handle. Miguel's presence also makes it difficult on the opposition, they have to be wary of his breakout speed.

Senior Tony Vincent said the Cougars knew they would have to score at least twice to win the game, but now have to focus on what's ahead.

"This will probably be the hardest game until playoffs," he noted.

Defensively, Ian Fitzgerald had 10 tackles and a sack at outside linebacker, with Shane Silveira recording seven tackles and a sack. Travis James and Nate Caton each had seven tackles, Matt Roberson had nine tackles, Gilberto Mancilla added eight tackles. Robbie Steves and Johnathon Costa also performed well, said Loureiro, and Vincent added a sack as well.

Escalon had 199 total yards, 38 rushing plays for 189 yards and Franceschetti completed one of four pass attempts for 10 yards. Patterson had 214 yards, 77 rushing and 137 passing, most of those coming in the fourth quarter drive that led to their lone touchdown.

"We had tough yards, big plays," Loureiro said. "I'm proud of the offense in the third quarter, proud of our defense all game."

The coach said he also wanted to make sure the crowd knew they were heard and appreciated, as the Cougar fans filled the stands and lined up around the visitors' side of the stadium.

"To see everybody down there in purple, that was great," Loureiro said. "When they're loud and vocal like they were, it helps those kids out and that crowd, they can be a factor, they can be that 12th man out there. I hope they keep coming out like that."

Escalon next faces off with Dixon of the Golden Empire League, coming in off a tough 21-19 loss to Winters and looking for their first win.

"They do not have a lot of seniors, they are junior heavy and have a lot of younger kids," said Loureiro.

They run the same offense as Patterson, so the Cougars will be ready for it, and Loureiro said he is hoping to get up on them early, so he can utilize a lot of players and rest some of the starters that are nursing injuries from the battle with Patterson.

"This hopefully will be a good chance to get some of the other kids playing time, help develop them," Loureiro said.

Game time will be about 7:30 p.m., with the JV game at 5:30 p.m. Friday.