The first Trans-Valley League football game of the season for Escalon comes after a bye week and comes against an age-old nemesis, Hughson. The Cougars will travel for the game, set for a 7:30 p.m. start Friday, Oct. 10 in Hughson.
“We’re all tied for first place,” Escalon head coach Mark Loureiro said, noting that the preseason is over and everyone is 0-0 in TVL play right now. “A lot of the TVL teams had a really tough non-league schedule, Hughson comes in at 4-1 and we come in at 3-2.”
Both teams are also coming off their bye week, which has given them a chance to heal some nagging injuries and take double the time to prepare for TVL play. For Escalon, though, Loureiro said they are still coming to grips with the loss of standout Christian May, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the last home preseason game.
“That injury will be tough to overcome,” Loureiro admitted, adding that other players will have to step up to fill the void left by the versatile May. He ran the ball, returned kicks and also created problems defensively for opponents.
Even so, Loureiro said the team will definitely be ready to hit the gridiron hard on Friday night.
“This has always been a big rivalry, the first week has Escalon-Hughson and Hilmar-Ripon, people are anxious to see these games and what happens,” Loureiro said.
The league itself is up for grabs, though the coach said he does feel one team has a slight advantage.
“I saw Modesto Christian for the first time and they are playing the best of any team in the league right now, I give them the edge,” Loureiro said.
For this week, however, the Cougars are focused solely on Hughson and the weapons the Huskies will bring to the field.
George Harp returns as coach and the black and gold Huskies, whose only loss this preseason came to Liberty Ranch, are looking for a solid outing against the Cougars. Escalon defeated Liberty Ranch, and that was the only team they played in common during the preseason campaign.
“They’re a big, physical team, they don’t do a lot of fancy things,” Loureiro said of Hughson. “They run the ball first but they will stretch the field. And they run to the ball well on defense.”
Key players for the Huskies are returning All-TVL defensive back and wide receiver Tyler May, top rusher Cesar Cuevas and top linemen Kyle Harp and Adrian Rivera.
Loureiro said after his team took a loss on the road at Bear River in their preseason finale, he needed to see a renewed commitment from the squad. He feels that has happened, but the question will be answered more definitively on Friday night.
“We hope they are (ready),” he said. “We’ve worked a lot on self-improvement, toughness.”
It’s also fitting that the first game of the TVL campaign comes against one of the team’s longest-standing rivals.
“Here we go, jumping right into it, we’re looking forward to bouncing back and it will be interesting to see which kids will step up for us,” Loureiro said. “This will be a tough game and I think it will come down to who makes the least amount of mistakes, who makes the least amount of turnovers.”