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Homecoming Win Solid Team Effort By Cougars Shuts Down Linden
The football team won ... and won big, making Homecoming 2008 a smashing success at Escalon High.

The varsity Cougars upended visiting Linden by a 44-7 verdict in the Friday night contest, with the only score for the Lions coming in the final minute of the game.

Escalon kicked off and forced Linden to punt it away on its first possession. The ball went out of bounds at about the 35-yard line and after a carry by Jason Diniz for the first down, Charlie McDonald broke free for a 54-yard scramble for the score. The kick went wide but with 9:10 to go in the first quarter, the Cougars were already on the board, leading 6-0.

"We are striking quick and we are striking from long distance," varsity head coach Mark Loureiro said of his team's offensive explosiveness. "It's amazing to see, amazing to watch."

Linden had no answers for the Cougar attack, which can come in many forms, with multiple offensive weapons. One of the main goals for the evening was to get everyone on the roster some playing time in front of the hometown crowd, a full house for the Homecoming festivities.

"We talked about it all week," explained Loureiro. "We wanted to come out hard from the start, give some of these other kids a chance ... it worked out just how coaches would dream."

Everyone did have the chance to play, with some of the back up players getting an opportunity to shine during second half action.

"The second guys stepped up," agreed Loureiro. "We left real happy and healthy."

Defense helped the offense on Friday night, with a quarterback sack by Travis Cardoza on a third and 17 setting up a 40-yard touchdown run by Izzy Ruiz a couple of plays later, with the kick good and Escalon leading 13-0 with 2:46 to go in the first quarter.

Forced to punt again on their next possession, the Lions went back on the defensive, but Escalon churned up the yardage and were driving as time expired in the first quarter. They scored early in the second, Ruiz on a 4-yard run with 10:51 to go. Diniz added the kick to make it 20-0.

Linden's next possession ended with a punt, despite a Cougar penalty, and after a huge gain by McDonald, Diniz got the call and sent a field goal in from 28 yards out to make it 23-0 with 5:19 to play in the half. With the Lions on offense once more, Danny Thompson came up big with his first interception of the season, and the Cougars parlayed that into a 56-yard touchdown run from Diniz, who also added the kick after, making it 30-0 Escalon with 4:55 to go in the second quarter.

Not done quite yet, the Cougars had one more chance with the ball in the half after Linden had to punt it away and quarterback Spencer Franceschetti and Thompson hooked up on a long pass play, going 41 yards for the touchdown. Diniz added the kick and the home team had an insurmountable 37-0 lead at the half.

Loureiro said the big lead gave him the chance to rest some players over the third and fourth quarters, while Linden also seemed to take their foot off the gas.

"They kind of laid down in the second half, we just steamrolled them," the coach said. "We got great games from several kids. Tyler Ellisen stepped it up big, he had seven tackles and two sacks, Nick Largent had eight tackles, Mike Gutierrez had a sack, Travis Cardoza had a sack, Blake Nayer had a fumble recovery that he returned to the 2 yard line to set up another touchdown, Danny Thompson had his first interception."

Ellisen got his sack early in the second half, which forced the fumble that Nayer picked up and returned to the two, stopped just short of the end zone. From there, Steve Silva took it in for the score and the kick was good, giving Escalon a 44-0 lead with 5:58 to go in the third quarter.

That ended the scoring for Escalon, and Linden avoided the shutout by scoring on a 28-yard run with 55 seconds to play in the game. They added the kick and the final was 44-7.

"The first guys played hard and gave the second guys the opportunity," Loureiro said.

Those second guys, he added, made the most of it, putting in some solid performances.

"Defensively, Jason Johnstad and Ramon Ramos played good and Jorge Parocua came off the bench and had four tackles," Loureiro said. "I thought Colin Keener played, well, Sean Focht, Josh Messersmith, Tyler Gonzales, all those guys and that will build our depth."

Escalon had 10 first downs on the night to Linden's six and the Cougars amassed 402 yards compared to the 111 for the Lions.

The Cougars rushed 42 times for 361 yards and completed 1-of-2 pass attempts for 41 yards. They fumbled once but recovered it and had three penalties for 30 yards. Linden had 39 rushing plays for 79 yards and passed for 32 yards, completing 7-of-10 attempts with one interception. They fumbled twice and lost it once and were penalized five times for 50 yards.

"Charlie McDonald continues to put up amazing numbers, he had five carries for 155 yards and one touchdown," Loureiro said. "Jason Diniz is another weapon, he had five carries for 81 yards and a touchdown, he hit five of six PATs, had a field goal, had long kickoffs into the end zone, he just goes out there and delivers."

Ruiz had five carries for 70 yards and two touchdowns and though the passing game wasn't too much of a factor, Loureiro said with the touch that Franceschetti puts on the ball, he expects to see it come more into play as the season goes along.

He also praised the offensive line for their effort.

"The kids are building walls, reading blocks, making the holes for our kids to run through," the coach said.

With the win, Homecoming was declared a success but Loureiro said the true measure of a good team is not looking at what you've accomplished in the past, but preparing for what lies ahead.

"We can't lose any momentum," Loureiro told his players in the post-game huddle. "When you show up Monday, look at that goal ahead of you."

That goal will be getting a road win, as the Cougars will travel to Angels Camp to take on the Bret Harte Bullfrogs on Friday night, Oct. 10.