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League Finale Looms Cougars Eye MC Revenge Game After Putting Away Hilmar
Escalon's varsity football Cougars clinched the Trans-Valley League title on Friday night with a decisive win over Hilmar, stinging the Yellowjackets in a 31-6 decision.

Intermittent rain fell on Engel Field but the weather couldn't hold back a determined host team from bringing the title back to Escalon.

"We knew the whole team had to play hard the whole time," said Tony Vincent, involved heavily in the defensive effort with six tackles.

Senior Chad Hale, one of those players recognized in pre-game ceremonies for Senior Night that included the introduction of senior players and cheerleaders, agreed that it was a satisfying victory.

"It feels nice to bring the championship back to Escalon," he said. "Hilmar played real tough up front but we just hit them hard ... we played tougher."

Head coach Mark Loureiro said the game showcased the versatility and explosiveness of the Cougars, who struck for 17 points in the second quarter, 14 more in the fourth. Hilmar's lone touchdown came in the fourth quarter.

"I thought we got a tremendous effort out of our special teams," Loureiro explained. "Brandon Shaw had three kicks over 50 yards that pinned them back all night. James Hill and Josh Miguel both had big punt returns, an average of 19 yards, it was a battle of field position and it seemed like we were playing on half a field the whole first half."

Escalon's second quarter scores were a Josh Miguel 64-yard run off a tackle trap, a 1-yard plunge from Adrian Cortes, both times the point after added by Gino Franceschetti. The final score of the half, a 42-yard field goal drilled by Franceschetti with about 10 yards to spare, was set up on an interception and 28-yard return by Miguel.

In the fourth quarter, Cortes went in again from a yard out, with the kick by Franceschetti for a 24-0 lead. Hilmar then got on the board on a 2-yard pass but the 2-point conversion failed, making it 24-6. The Cougars tacked on one more, a 10-yard sweep by Miguel with the point after good by Franceschetti for the 31-6 final.

Victor Carrillo paced the defensive effort with 12 tackles, Shane Silveira had seven tackles, one sack and one fumble recovery.

"Bandon had his best game of the year on defense, eight tackles, Tony Vincent had six tackles and he was everywhere," Loureiro said.

Miguel ended up with 18 carries for 162 yards and three touchdowns in the win, Cortes had 16 rushes for 100 yards and two touchdowns. Blockers and the offensive line of Dylan Cathcart, Victor Carrillo, Chad Hale, Jacob Wallace and Nate Caton earned high praise for their efforts.

"The first quarter was a battle, then we got up by a couple of scores and when Gino put that field goal through, it was a great feeling," said Loureiro. "Then I knew they had to score three touchdowns to beat us and I didn't think they could do it."

High marks also went to the special teams coverage unit of Jeromy Jimenez, Steve Hazen, Noel Najera, Dylan Furtado and Ian Fitzgerald for getting down the field quickly on punts and kickoffs.

An emotional Adrian Cortes could hardly put into words what the victory meant.

"We worked hard all week ... the TVL championship, we brought it back," he said, tears threatening to spill over. "I'm just so proud of everyone. Now we take it to the next level."

He also said his teammates were a big reason for his success in finding the end zone twice on Friday night.

"I just trust in my line, run behind my blocks," he said.

Escalon had 276 total yards to Hilmar's 191, with the Cougars getting 244 yards of that on the ground on 43 rushing plays and 32 yards passing. Hilmar had 119 yards rushing, 72 in the air.

"They've come together as a team," Loureiro said. "It's great to bring the title back home."

Even so, one game remains ... the Cougars travel to Modesto Christian for the TVL finale on Nov. 5.


It has been circled on the calendar for nearly a year. The rematch. And this time, the Cougars don't intend to lose.

The last time Escalon visited Modesto Christian, it put an end to the season, beaten there in the playoffs last year. Now, with the TVL title in hand, the Cougars are ready to take on the Crusaders and are eager to get some revenge.

"I still believe Modesto Christian is one of the best teams in the league," Loureiro said. "They played a tough preseason schedule, they can beat anybody in league and they'll be up to play us, it's their senior night, their last game of the season."

Modesto Christian comes in at 3-2 in league, 3-6 overall. They have had some injuries, a coaching change and team tragedy with the death of a player overshadowing their season, but Loureiro knows his team will see the 'A' game from the Crusaders.

They are led by Division I UCLA-bound senior tight end/defensive lineman Raymond Nelson, 6-5, 235 and senior Dominic Dami, 6-0, 175, who serves as quarterback, kicker, safety and can also play wide receiver. Running back Tyke Andrew, 5-10, 180, is their leading rusher, with Jacob Alameda a standout at guard and middle linebacker, coming in at 6-0, 185. Head coach for the Crusaders is Steve Gleason. Kickoff on Friday will be about 7:30 p.m.

"The last two trips over there weren't very good for us," said Loureiro. "My job is to make sure we're ready to play this week. And we will be."