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Consistent Scoring Lifts JV Cougars To League Opening Win Over Hilmar
Bracing for impact, freshman running back Kaden Christensen hangs on to the ball during Friday nights league opener against Hilmar. Christensen had a pair of touchdowns in a 28-14 win over the Yellowjackets. Marg Jackson/The Times

In their first closely contested game of the season, the Escalon JV boys defeated Hilmar by a 28-14 final on Friday night.

The meeting at Engel Field kicked off the Trans-Valley League schedule for the squad, with the JV Cougars going 5-0 in preseason and improving their record to 6-0 with the win over the visiting Yellowjackets.

“It was a close, hard fought, tough, typical TVL rivalry game,” coach Andrew Beam said of the contest. “I was glad our kids rose to the occasion.”

Preseason games didn’t offer much in the way of competition for the young Cougars this year, so facing off with a quality opponent was a welcome change, Beam added.

“We found ourselves behind for the first time all year, we were facing some adversity for the first time,” said Beam.

Hilmar got on the board first, converting on a 30-yard pass play in the first quarter. The point after was good and the visitors took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.

Escalon tied the score on a nine-play drive in the second quarter that ended with a one yard plunge from Jordan Gwartney for the score. Newcomer Jonathan Valeriano lined up for the extra point and put it through, in his first game with the JV team. Former JV kicker Guillermo Alvarez moved up to varsity and Valeriano – a soccer player whose season won’t start until winter – joined the team.

Later in the quarter, a 23-yard scoring run by Kaden Christensen and the point after by Valeriano made it 14-7 Cougars at halftime.

“The play was set up by a Cole Gilbert block,” Beam said of the Cougars’ second touchdown of the game. “In the second quarter alone, we had 13 plays for 100 yards; it was really a dominating quarter.”

The teams traded touchdowns in the third quarter, Lucca Dutra connecting on a 50-yard pass play to Christensen down the right sideline for a score and Hilmar going on a seven-play drive to get into the end zone to answer back. The score after three was Escalon 21, Hilmar 14.

“Going into the fourth, up by seven, we had an eight-play drive that ended with Dutra going in from a yard out for the touchdown to put us up 28-14,” Beam explained. “From there, we were able to hold them.”

A key play came with a Jacob Walden sack that forced a fumble and the recovery by Damien Tom to end a Yellowjackets drive.

“Jonathan made all of his extra points, did what he needed to do on kickoffs,” Beam said of his new kicker doing well in his debut. “Kaden had nine carries for us, Jordan had 16. Dutra was 4-for-6, he had close to 100 yards passing and a touchdown.”

Defensively, Ethan Krieger had 11 tackles, with Nash Satnat recording seven, Colton Panero with four.

“It was a group effort on both sides of the ball,” Beam said. “You never felt comfortable, until we were able to take a knee at the very end. It was a fun game to play in, fun to coach in and a fun football game to watch.”

Escalon heads to Mountain House for an Oct. 14 game, then is home to host Ripon in a pivotal TVL game on Oct. 21.

“Ripon and Modesto Christian both won their TVL openers,” Beam pointed out. “It doesn’t get any easier from here.”