The first game of the season is in the books for Escalon’s varsity football team and it went in the win column for the Cougars.
They hosted the Enochs Eagles on Friday night and came away with a hard fought 14-10 victory.
“They were better than we anticipated, more disciplined and very well coached, they were better than last year,” head coach Mark Loureiro said of the Eagles. “They were bigger than they looked on film, more physical. Our kids responded well.”
Enochs got on the board first but Escalon answered quickly to tie the game; the second half of the contest saw the visiting Eagles convert on a field goal to take the lead, but Escalon again answered, scoring a late fourth quarter touchdown for the margin of victory.
“We had three sophomores, six juniors,” Loureiro said of the young Cougars taking the field. “All the mistakes we made are fixable ones. The difference, last year’s team would have probably found a way to lose this game; this year we found a way to win, that was very nice for us.”
Enochs scored their touchdown on an interception in the second quarter, returning the pick 78 yards for the score with 2:46 to go in the quarter. The kick was good for a 7-0 Enochs lead.
Before halftime, though, Escalon went on a drive capped off with a 1-yard plunge from fullback Elliott Mello, with Rodrigo DeMelo adding the point after to tie it up, 7-7.
In the fourth quarter, Enochs took a 10-7 lead on a 26-yard field goal but Escalon was once again up to the task, going on an offensive drive that ended with another 1-yard score from Mello, with the kick by DeMelo, making it 14-10. Escalon would keep Enochs off the board the rest of the way, taking the win.
Leading the offensive attack was Mello, who had 11 carries for 70 yards and two touchdowns.
“He had some big carries on that last touchdown drive,” Loureiro noted. “At times, we blocked well.”
Mello, a senior, said it was important for the team to respond after falling behind at home.
“I think it’s really easy to get down on ourselves,” he admitted. “But our blockers stepped up, they were blocking great, made it easy for me.”
Quarterback Steven Grossi had a solid night under center, completing 8-of-13 pass attempts for 93 yards. He did have one interception. Four of the passes went to Max Nicholas, his receptions good for 25 yards on the night. Hugo Alcala had one catch for 44 yards.
“It took a little while to settle in but when I did, I felt confident,” Grossi said. “Now we get Calaveras, they’re going to be tough.”
Mark DeHaven had 10 carries for 51 yards to add to the ground attack for the Cougars.
“On the defensive side, we played very well, we held them to 141 yards of offense,” Loureiro said.
Nash Satnat led the team in tackles with 12 and also had one sack. Estephan Salcedo had eight tackles and a key interception late in the game. Damien Tom had seven tackles, DeHaven had six, with five tackles and one sack by Mello. Cuyler Crawford and Cole Gilbert each added one sack.
“Both our outside linebackers played well, Elliott Mello and Lucciano Dutra, plus Kaden Christensen, as a sophomore, held his own, he played a solid defensive game,” said Loureiro. “Overall the kids did play very well.”
For the game, visiting Enochs had 11 first downs, 141 total yards of offense, 44 rushes for 137 yards and completed 1-of-5 pass attempts for four yards, with one interception. They were penalized six times for 65 yards. Escalon had 14 first downs, 238 total yards, 36 rushing plays for 145 yards and completed 8-of-13 pass attempts for 93 yards, with one interception. Both teams fumbled once; Escalon lost theirs, Enochs recovered theirs. The Cougars were penalized seven times for 75 yards.
“We shot ourselves in the foot a little bit,” Loureiro admitted. “But again, these are growing pains mistakes, because of the speed of the game, keeping contain, mistakes we can fix.”
Loureiro also pointed to a strong night from kickers, with Guillermo Alvarez sending three kick-offs deep, close to the goal line, and Cole Gilbert with punts of 56 and 53 yards.
“It was a good win,” Loureiro said. “We’ll take it.”