It definitely isn’t the way you would draw up a Homecoming celebration.
Escalon’s varsity football team took one on the chin Friday night, as the Valley Oak League’s Kimball Jaguars came in to Engel Field and routed the host team, 54-14.
It was the lone blemish on an otherwise successful Homecoming Week of festivities for the Cougars and their fans in the community.
There was Powder Puff, a parade, the Queen coronation and more to contend with, as well as a highly regarded opponent in the Jaguars.
“I thought that team was one of the best teams we have played in a long time,” said varsity head coach Andrew Beam. “They were bigger, faster, stronger than we were; they are well-coached and are just one heck of a football team.”
Kimball had just a 6-0 lead after one quarter but turned up the intensity and outscored Escalon 20-14 in the second quarter. Taking that 26-14 lead into halftime, the Jaguars came out and scored two more touchdowns in each of the third and fourth quarters while keeping the Cougar offense under control, shutting them out the rest of the way.
“There was a big momentum swing early,” Beam explained. “It was 6-0 midway through the first quarter, we got stopped on a fourth and one on their 10-yard line. I thought if we could have capitalized on that and maybe slowed things down, it might have been different.”
But true to their mascot, the Jaguars were fast on their feet. Beam also noted that it is a senior-laden team, one that has been together on the gridiron for the last few years. For Escalon, they have a number of two-way starters and just had a tough time keeping pace against the fresher Kimball squad.
“We suffered through some growing pains this week,” admitted Beam. “Hopefully that will prepare us for TVL football.”
Escalon did win the toss on Friday night and elected to receive – Kimball tried the onside kick but Escalon was able to cover it. However, their first possession was cut short by a Kimball interception, one of several the Jaguars picked off on the night. A couple of plays later, Kimball was in the end zone on a touchdown pass, though the 2-point conversion attempt was batted away by Tyler Medina. Still, the visitors went up 6-0 with 7:09 to play in the opening quarter.
Not much went right for the Cougars on their next possession and they had to punt it but Caden Gonsalves recovered a Kimball fumble on the ensuing offensive series.
It didn’t turn into any points, however and Kimball went up 12-0 in the second quarter on a passing play with 3:19 to go. The 2-point conversion again failed.
Escalon was able to get on the board with 2:33 to go in the half, a 26-yard touchdown pass from Donovan Rozevink to Logan Anderson, and the kick good, to trim to the lead to 12-7. An earlier touchdown catch by Jamin Miller was called back on a Cougar penalty.
A score with about a minute and a half to play saw Kimball go up 20-7, as the 2-point conversion was good. They added another first half score with a pick-6 to make it a 26-7 edge.
Battling back, Escalon got into the end zone with just five seconds left in the half, a 15-yard toss from Rozevink to EJ Lewis, who went up and over the defender to bring the ball down safely. The kick was good and the Cougars went into the locker room trailing 26-14.
Kimball received the second half kickoff and scored on their first possession, even though Tate Christensen registered a huge sack and the defense made a couple of solid stops. The touchdown came when a Kimball receiver saw daylight and churned up the field, hauling in a pass for the score. Another third quarter score and two more in the fourth would seal the Cougars’ fate and leave the scoreboard showing a final of 54-14.
Beam said though the Jaguars did record several interceptions on the night, he wanted to stay with the game plan.
“We could have just kept it on the ground and get a few yards here and there but we wanted to keep fighting until the end,” the coach said. “And I thought the kids did keep going out and competing throughout the night.”
In terms of statistics, Kimball had 413 yards passing and 153 yards rushing while the Cougars had 157 yards passing and just 76 rushing.
“Sophomore Jamin Miller had a great game, he had nine tackles on defense and he had two big catches for us and a touchdown catch that was called back, plus he ran the ball hard,” Beam said. “Ryan Lewis, our freshman, was going up against a senior, a 6-3, 295-pound tackle and he kept fighting all night. Tate Christensen had a sack, he and Logan Anderson had good nights defensively as well.”
Ryan Lewis had a sack, as did Christensen, while Caden Gonsalves had 10 tackles and a fumble recovery.
“We still have a lot of things to clean up and that was a very long, very physical game,” Beam said, noting that several players continue to deal with nagging injuries.
The schedule only gets tougher as Trans-Valley League play begins, and the Cougars will suit up and head off to Hughson for the TVL opener on Friday, Sept. 17.
“Hughson’s motto is ‘It’s our time’ and they are full of senior leaders who have had success together all through high school,” Beam said. “They were 9-1 as sophomores, 5-0 as juniors; they are the favorite in the TVL.”
The Huskies return a ton of players and Beam said this will be another key test for his young squad.
“We’re going into a hostile environment,” he said. “This brings back the tradition of that Escalon-Hughson rivalry from the 1990s.”
Kickoff in Hughson will be about 7 p.m. Friday.