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Cougars Fall To Calaveras In Varsity Football Action
14 nicholas
This pass went through the hands of intended receiver Max Nicholas but the senior had some huge receptions on Friday night, including one that went for a touchdown against Calaveras. Marg Jackson/The Times

Too many plays for the visiting Calaveras team proved too much for Escalon to overcome, as the varsity Cougars fell by a 28-14 final in Friday night football.

The game was actually closer than the final score indicated, with the Cougars battling back and tying up the game twice, only to have Calaveras push back a little harder.

“Our first half was not good,” admitted head coach Mark Loureiro, who said the young team hasn’t learned yet how to bounce back from a slow start. “They ran 46 plays to our 13, we had penalties that extended their drives, we dropped an interception.”

Neither team got on the board in the first quarter, though Calaveras definitely had the upper hand in time of possession. The visitors did score first on a 24-yard screen pass and the kick was good, making it 7-0.

But Escalon was able to answer back on their next possession, quarterback Steven Grossi finding Max Nicholas at the end of a route, connecting on a 10-yard pass in the end zone for the score. Rodrigo DeMelo added the point after to make it 7-7.

“I had to make the right release,” Nicholas said of shaking his defender to be open for the pass, which Grossi dropped nicely into the end zone.

There were a few standout plays for the Cougars, but Nicholas said the team definitely has work to do and must clean up the mistakes moving forward.

Fellow senior Hugo Alcala also churned up some yardage on the ground for the home team but said no one was satisfied with the outcome.

“We knew it would be a dog fight,” he admitted. “This week we’ll practice hard, watch film and get back on it.”

After Escalon tied the game, Calaveras marched down the field and scored on a 1-yard quarterback sneak, with the kick good, to take a 14-7 lead in the closing seconds of the first half.

“I felt we played better in the second half,” noted Loureiro. “We didn’t make as many mistakes but in the first half, we fell asleep on a reverse, we jumped offsides, those mistakes come back and haunt you when you play a veteran team.”

Offensively, the Cougars did have some good runs, with Alcala carrying the ball seven times for 42 yards, Elliott Mello had 10 carries for 30 yards and a score. Nicholas had a total of five catches on the night for 58 yards and a touchdown.

Second half scoring saw the Cougars tie the game in the fourth quarter on a 1-yard plunge form Mello, kick good, to make it 14-14. Calaveras, however, punched in two more scores over the final few minutes to put the game out of reach, scoring on a 16-yard run and a 4-yard run, each time adding the point after.

“Steve threw the ball well, he had a beautiful touchdown throw to Max and the defense was led by Nash Satnat with nine tackles, Lucca Dutra with nine, Estephan Salcedo had 12 tackles and an interception.”

Loureiro said the kicking game has been a bright spot so far, with Cole Gilbert getting off some solid punts, DeMelo perfect on extra points and Guillermo Alvarez pinning teams deep on kickoffs.

“It’s a team I wouldn’t mind seeing again,” Loureiro added of Calaveras.

For the game, Escalon had 10 first downs and 171 total yards, with 28 rushing plays for 81 yards. Calaveras had 18 first downs, 400 total yards, 52 rushing plays for 321 yards. Escalon completed 7-of-15 pass attempts for 90 yards and was penalized five times for 60 yards. Calaveras completed 5-of-14 pass attempts for 79 yard and had one interception .They were penalized six times for 65 yards.

This week, Escalon travels to Liberty High School in Madera to take on their first road opponent of the season.

“They’re 2-0, they run the Wing-T so that should help us during the week in practice,” Loureiro said. “It will be a tough game for us, it’s their home opener and it will be a great challenge.”

Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Sept. 8.