Making one final statement, the Escalon JV boys shut out their Friday night opponent, host Hughson, to go 10-0 on the season, 5-0 in Trans-Valley League play and claim the TVL championship.
It was a 22-0 victory on the road in the Nov. 4 contest, and the JV squad closed out the season with some topnotch defense, not allowing a point over the final 10 quarters of play overall.
“We had a nice long drive to start the first quarter but then we stumbled and turned it over on downs at the 10-yard line,” said head coach Andrew Beam of Friday’s finale on the road. “Later in that quarter, Jordan Gwartney caught a 9-yard pass from Lucciano Dutra for the touchdown.”
Then the team lined up for the anticipated point after touchdown, but made good on a play they had practiced earlier in the week, going for the 2-point conversion.
Kaden Christensen snapped it to quarterback Dutra, who threw it to tight end Alex Jimenez in the corner of the end zone for the conversion, making it 8-0 after one quarter.
Christensen scored on a 6-yard run in the second quarter and Jonathan Valeriano hit the extra point, making it 15-0.
“Hughson was one of the only teams that stuck with the run all through the game, they were getting three, four yards at a time,” explained Beam. “That really slowed the game down. We only touched the ball 23 times in the first half, they had the ball 28 times.”
Beam said the win was a total team effort and the squad once again got several notable performances. Key to the victory, however, was a defensive stand late in the first half.
“Hughson had four plays from the 5-yard line, our defense stepped up,” the coach said of the JV Cougars turning back the scoring threat, keeping the host Huskies out of the end zone as the first half wound down. “Once again the defense bailed us out.”
The JV defense has been stellar throughout the season, recording a total of six shutouts in their 10 wins.
“We never gave up more than 14 points and that was just once,” noted Beam. “We gave up an average of 3.4 points per game.”
Offensively, the young Escalon squad averaged more than 30 points per game.
After turning back the Huskies to end the first half, the teams then got into a back and forth battle in the third, neither able to do much offensively. It wasn’t until Hughson’s final drive of the quarter that they started to move the ball and again were knocking on the door, looking to cut into the Escalon lead heading to the final frame.
“They were driving and then Kaden Christensen pulled down an interception in the end zone,” explained Beam. “That was the play of the game, if they score there, it’s a one score game. That really stalled their momentum.”
Escalon jumped on that opportunity, taking the ball over on the interception and keeping the Huskies out of the end zone.
It didn’t take too long before they capitalized and were able to get back in the end zone, this time on a 49-yard pass play from Dutra to Frank Leal, with Valeriano kicking the extra point to make it 22-0. Cole Gilbert and Damien Tom provided solid blocks on Leal’s catch and run to the end zone.
From there, the Cougars were able to contain the Huskies and walk off with the win.
“Both teams had multiple personal fouls,” admitted Beam of the scrappy, hard hitting rivalry game against the Huskies. “It wasn’t our prettiest game.”
Offensively, Gwartney had 18 carries for 135 yards and had one catch for nine yards and a touchdown. Dutra completed six-of-12 pass attempts for 128 yards and two touchdowns. Leal had a touchdown catch on offense and also had an interception on defense. Christensen added an interception and a rushing touchdown.
“Ethan Krieger and Nash Satnat were again our leading tacklers,” Beam said.
With the Friday night victory, the JV Cougars claimed sole possession of the TVL title, defeating every other team in league, Mountain House, Hilmar, Ripon, Modesto Christian and Hughson. That, after running through their preseason campaign with a perfect record as well.
“It was a great year and this was a great group of kids, the sophomores and the six freshmen that we had up throughout the year,” Beam pointed out. “It should be exciting to watch as they grow and mature over the next couple of years. There’s a bright future if they continue to put in the work.”