Escalon scored the first touchdown of the night; Hilmar scored the last, and in between there was nearly 1000 yards of offense and 89 points put on the scoreboard. Unfortunately for the Cougars, they came out on the losing end of a 48-41 final on Friday night.
“It was a track meet,” agreed head coach Mark Loureiro. “Neither team could stop the other. It was disheartening, we had a great offensive effort but we just couldn’t make a stop.”
End to end action between the Trans-Valley League rivals, both 0-1 coming in, was nonstop from the first kickoff to the final possession of the game.
Escalon had a 21-13 lead at the end of the first quarter, was up 28-26 at the half and went into the final quarter tied at 34-34. When the final horn sounded, Hilmar had put two fourth quarter touchdowns on the board to Escalon’s one, the home team walking away from the slugfest with the win.
For the Cougars, touchdowns came from a pair of players, as C.J. Gumbs scored three and Tim Costa scored three.
“Dylan Azevedo was 6-for-10 in passing with 108 yards, we had over 400 yards of offense,” noted Loureiro. “It was just a question of not stopping them.”
Hilmar won the toss and opted to receive the opening kickoff and the Cougar defense was perhaps most effective on that drive, allowing just one first down on the series before Hilmar had to punt it away.
Escalon capitalized in the first quarter with a drive that ended on a 3-yard touchdown run by Costa, the kick by David Martinez was good for a 7-0 lead.
Hilmar countered with a 31-yard run but the point after was no good, leaving it 7-6. Costa found the end zone again on a 38-yard run, kick good, for a 14-6 Escalon lead but Hilmar answered back on a 63-yard run, kick good, for a 14-13 contest. A 67-yard breakaway run by Gumbs, kick good, closed out the first quarter scoring with the Cougars up 21-13.
In the second quarter, Hilmar converted on a 16-yard pass play for the score, trimming the lead to 21-20 and then it was Gumbs again, a 35yard scoring run with the point after good, putting Escalon up 28-20.
Hilmar marched down the field efficiently as the first half drew to a close, scoring on a 6-yard run and going for the 2-point conversion but stopped short, heading to the locker room down 28-26 at the half.
Looking to get some distance between them, Escalon took the second half kickoff with high hopes of sustaining a drive but went a quick three and out but Hilmar also stalled on their first possession of that half. A nice return from Gumbs set up the Cougars’ next drive, which culminated in a 21-yard touchdown run for Gumbs a few plays later, this time the point after attempt hit the crossbar and bounced off, Escalon leading it 34-26.
Though extending the lead gave the Cougars a chance to breathe a little, Loureiro said there was never really the sense that it would be enough.
“We won and lost that game at least 15 times,” the coach pointed out. “The kids just put in a tremendous effort.”
Hilmar came back with a 6-yard pass play for the touchdown and made good on the two-point conversion, tying the game at 34-34 as time wound down in the third quarter.
Costa scored his third touchdown of the night in the fourth on a one-yard run, the kick was good and it was 41-34 Cougars. A 22-yard pass play for Hilmar and the kick brought them even, 41-41 and it came down to the final possessions to decide the game.
Hilmar launched a squib kick that Tyler Voral gathered in and returned to near midfield, giving Escalon good field position with just over seven minutes left in the game. A big third down conversion, a shovel pass from Azevedo to Gumbs, went for a first down to the 10-yard line and Escalon was in business.
A few plays later, facing a fourth down and goal at the 3-yard line, Escalon took a time out to set up a play and Hilmar then came up with the defensive stand of the night, holding the Cougars out of the end zone. Taking over on downs, the Yellowjackets then stung the Cougars on the first play from scrimmage, breaking a 97-yard run for the touchdown.
“In watching the film after, there were two or three horrible clips on that run back,” Loureiro said. “Dakota Saing got clipped, Luis Estrada took a bad block to the back, there were some definite penalties there.”
But no flags were thrown and the touchdown went on the board, the extra point went through and it was Hilmar 48, Escalon 41 – the first time the Yellowjackets had the lead all night.
“We got so close, we just couldn’t finish,” Loureiro said.
Escalon got the ball with a little over two minutes to play but could not get down the field for the tying touchdown, taking the loss.
The Cougars had 426 total yards on the night, including 318 on the ground and 108 through the air, along with a big third down conversion catch from Sam Lattig. Hilmar had 570 yards of offense, 398 on the ground and 172 in the air.
On the defensive side, Loureiro pointed to the efforts of a trio of players.
“Garrett Nebe had 10 tackles, he really stepped up, had one of his better games,” the coach noted. “Dustin Lawrence had 11 tackles, Dakota Saing had eight.”
Offensively, Gumbs had 15 carries for 223 yards and three touchdowns, Costa had 22 carries for 114 yards and three scores.
“They competed real hard,” Loureiro said of his team, noting that they had some players dealing with injuries and were without Chris Pilcher, lost to injury during the week.
Now at 0-2 in league, the Cougars are in a position where they have to win out to guarantee a playoff berth. They will be back home this Friday, welcoming in first-year squad Mountain House.
“Hopefully we can get healthy on them,” said Loureiro.
The Mustangs come in looking for their first win of the season and bring a number of solid athletes, but Loureiro knows his Cougars sense the opportunity for a win – and won’t let it go to waste.