By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Headed To Title Game High-Powered Cougars Shoot Down Falcons In Football Semifinal
On a night where four different players found the end zone, Escalon was equally effective on both sides of the ball and shut down visiting Colfax in a 41-6 thumping at Engel Field on Nov. 26.

The day after Thanksgiving feast for the Cougars had them preying on the Falcons, limiting them to just 72 yards on the ground and giving up just one third quarter score.

The semifinal win put Escalon into the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV championship game, where they will face off with Mother Lode League champion Calaveras on Friday, Dec. 3. Calaveras was a 28-21 winner over Union Mine in their semifinal.

"No doubt, we are playing our best ball of the season right now, getting better every week, running on all cylinders," said head coach Mark Loureiro.

As the season has progressed, Loureiro said the team has matured and the juniors starting on defense are no longer high school juniors ... they are solid football players, focused on a mission. The offense is equally impressive, such as the 8-for-8, 149-yard performance from junior Gino Franceschetti at quarterback, who also ran in a naked bootleg from 38 yards out for a touchdown.

"Adrian Cortes is coming alive at fullback, Josh Miguel, every time he touches the ball he has the potential to reach the end zone," said Loureiro. "Gino to Brandon Shaw, that has become a weapon, and Gino does a good job distributing the offense, he is making good choices back there, good reads."

The Cougars won the toss Friday night and deferred, kicking off to Colfax on a night that was cold but free of rain during the contest. The teams traded the early possessions, each side having to punt, with Colfax getting in position for a field goal try on its second time on offense. But the kick was no good and Escalon took over at the 9-yard line with 4:40 to play in the first quarter. After a short rush by Cortes, Franceschetti and Miguel hooked up on a 19-yard pass play, Cortes then rumbled for another first down and Miguel sprung free from several Falcon would-be tacklers to go 45 yards for a score. Franceschetti added the point after for a 7-0 Escalon lead with 3:01 to play in the first.

The ensuing kickoff by Shaw pinned the Falcons deep and they were unable to do much, having to punt the ball away. A nice run by Cortes when the Cougars took over on offense got them in good position as the first quarter ended.

Franceschetti connected with Miguel on a first down pass to start the second quarter, then Shaw got higher than the defender on the next pass, pulling it in for an 18-yard touchdown reception. The point after failed, but with 10:54 left in the second, it was 13-0 Escalon.

Colfax worked a reverse on the kickoff, which was good for 40-plus yards and put them near midfield but they had to punt the ball away again as the Cougar defense was relentless. It was on Escalon's next possession that, on a third and four, Franceschetti took the ball around the left side on the naked bootleg play, faking out the entire Colfax defense, and he waltzed in untouched. An extra point later, it was 20-0.

Nate Caton came up with a sack on the next Falcons' possession, forcing a punt and Cortes then got in the scorebook on the next series, going in from a yard out with Franceschetti adding the kick for a 27-0 Cougar lead.

The final possession of the first half by Colfax started out efficiently enough, with a couple of first downs on the drive, but the Cougars recorded a sack to push them back and force them into a passing game, with a couple falling incomplete as the clock ran out.

In the second half, a long touchdown run by Cortes on Escalon's opening possession was called back on an illegal motion penalty, but Franceschetti hooked up with Shaw on the next play, a 58-yard touchdown pass, with the point after good to make it 34-0.

Colfax got on the board with a touchdown run with 7:46 to go in the third on an 11-yard screen pass. The point after was no good and they also tried an onside kick, recovered by James Hill to keep the ball for the Cougars. On that drive, the Cougars had a fourth and short at the 4-yard line and opted to go for it, Cortes bullying his way in for the score. The kick was good and it was 41-6.

Neither side would find the end zone in the fourth quarter, and the Cougars wrapped up their first Section final appearance since 2005 with the win. Hill had an interception in the fourth quarter and both Joey Camara and Dylan Furtado got some carries late in the game.

"Three different times in the red zone, they came up empty handed," Loureiro told his team as they celebrated the victory in the end zone, offering congratulations to the defense. "Four times inside the 20, our offense converted every time."

Franceschetti had five carries for 43 yards and a touchdown on the night to help lift his team.

"We also got great games from Brandon Shaw, five catches for 116 yards and two touchdowns," Loureiro pointed out. "Josh Miguel, 15 carries for 142 yards, two catches for 31 yards, a touchdown. Adrian Cortes, 15 carries for 45 yards and two scores, and a beautiful touchdown run of 60 yards called back."

Loureiro said going in, he knew they would see a high-powered offense from Colfax, but the Cougars were up to the challenge.

"The goal was don't give anything cheap or quick," he said.

Shane Silveira was the leading tackler with seven and had an outstanding game, while David Gonzales and Ian Fitzgerald had five tackles each at outside linebacker. Shaw had five tackles, Victor Carrillo had seven, with sacks from Cortes and Caton, the interception by Hill.

Colfax had 14 first downs on the night, Escalon had 12. Total yards were 401 for Escalon on 42 rushing plays for 252 yards, 8-for-8 passing for 149 yards. The Cougars did not fumble and they were penalized four times for 30 yards. Colfax had 307 total yards, on 23 rushing plays for 72 yards, 20-for-36 passing for 235 yards with one interception. They fumbled once but recovered it and were penalized once for 15 yards.

The defense held leading rushing Tommy Baldoni - averaging 150 yards per game coming in - to 16 carries for just 47 yards.

"This was a great ball game, a complete game," Loureiro said. "We just need to have one more in us."

Escalon and Calaveras meet at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 3 at Lincoln High School in Stockton for the Division IV crown.