The final score was in Escalon’s favor, 35-13, but the game itself was a bit lackluster – except for about a minute and a half.
“It was a strange game,” varsity football head coach Andrew Beam agreed of the Friday night, Sept. 6 contest on the home field against visiting Sonora. “We got some self-inflicted penalties that slowed us down, we were not quite on the same page offensively or defensively and we’re not where we need to be or want to be.”
But no one is going to argue with a win and that’s what the Cougars got in the non-league contest.
Sonora came in 0-2 and needed a win to salvage something from their preseason campaign. Escalon, coming in 2-0, just wanted to keep the wins coming.
“We knew that Sonora was much better than their 0-2 record,” Beam said. “We knew we would get their best shot and they played hard, they played well.”
Escalon did have a couple of strong early drives but really came on in the last 1:27 of the first half, when they scored a pair of touchdowns to take a commanding lead into the half.
“We spent a lot of time looking at film,” said senior Bryan Hale of preparing for the Wildcats, noting that Escalon’s late second quarter outburst was key. “I think it just de-motivated them, crushed their spirit.”
Quarterback Ty Harris said despite not having a win this season, the Wildcats did their best.
“I’ve never played a team that had so much fight,” Harris said. “They were pushing us.”
He said they made some adjustments at halftime that allowed for a little more breathing room for the offense and he also credited the defense with doing its job to keep the visitors in check.
The Cougars struck first on Friday night with a 13-yard touchdown run from Luke Anderson in the first quarter. The kick was good by Brayan Barrientos for an early 7-0 lead.
Barrientos, a soccer player in the winter season, said he is enjoying “being with my friends” and providing some stability in the kicking game for the varsity squad in his first year at this level.
A 38-yard touchdown pass from Ty Harris to Kaden Christensen with the kick good made it 14-0 in the second quarter.
“Kaden got a great block from Damien Tom to spring him free,” Beam said.
Sonora answered with a one-yard touchdown plunge, kick no good, with 1:40 left in the half to trim the lead to 14-6.
But that’s when the Cougars pulled out all the stops and clawed their way to a 28-6 lead at halftime.
“We knew they got the ball to start the second half so we went into our no huddle NASCAR offense,” Beam said. “Ty Harris went 3-for-4 on the drive and it culminated with a 42-yard pass to Kaidence Trejo.”
The kick was good for a 21-6 lead and the ensuing kickoff saw the Wildcats with all three of their timeouts. After a couple of rushing plays, though, David Camacho was able to punch to ball out of the rusher’s grasp from behind and Colton Panero recovered the ball with 30 seconds left in the second quarter. Harris completed passes to Panero and then found Trejo again, the drive culminating with a one-yard plunge from Anderson for the touchdown. The kick was good and it was 28-6.
“The sharpest we looked was the last minute of that first half,” Beam said. “Up 28-6, that kind of demoralized them.”
It was a scoreless third quarter and Escalon made it 35-6 with a 29-yard pass play, Harris to Trejo, kick good, in the fourth quarter.
Sonora punched in their final touchdown on a five-yard run, with the kick good, for the 35-13 final.
Harris was 10-for-18 passing on the night for 118 yards and three touchdowns. He also threw his first interception of the year. Christensen was the leading rusher, 10 carries for 93 yards, and had one touchdown catch of 38 yards. Trejo had six catches for 115 yards and two scores, Anderson carried the ball 12 times for 54 yards with two touchdowns. Defensively, Camacho had 11 tackles and Anderson had 10 while Panero had the fumble recovery.
“We’ve got a lot to clean up,” Beam said. “But I can’t think of a better opportunity for our kids than taking on a big school.”
That ‘big school’ will be the 3-0 Downey Knights, who host Escalon on Friday, Sept. 13.
Beam said the team is encouraging all Cougars fans to wear white to the game in Modesto for a ‘white out’ on the visiting side.
“It will be a heck of a challenge, the little dog gets to take on the big dog,” Beam said. “Our kids are excited about it and it will be Downey’s Homecoming, so get there early.”
Varsity kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.