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Cougars Roll Past Bruins In Regular Season Finale
Seeking some running room, Cougar A.J. Camarena carries the ball against visiting Riverbank on Friday, with the host team winning by a 62-14 final on Senior Night. Marg Jackson/The Times

Running out to a 49-0 lead at the half, Escalon allowed two late scores by Riverbank but easily dispatched the visiting Bruins in the regular season football finale, 62-14.

The host Cougars won the toss on Senior Night and deferred, holding Riverbank to a quick possession and then finding the end zone at the 6:36 mark of the first quarter. Tyler Lawrence went in from 4 yards out for the score and the kick by Thomas Diniz was good for an early 7-0 lead.

It was an earlier start to the game, with Riverbank no longer fielding a JV squad. That allowed Escalon to start their Senior Night festivities – with recognition for all senior cheerleaders and players, with family members greeting them on the field – about 6:45 p.m. and the kickoff to the Trans-Valley League game at 7 p.m.

Escalon found the end zone again with 1:30 to play in the opening frame, a 19-yard run from Christian May and the kick good for a 14-0 lead.

Head coach Mark Loureiro said the game went according to plan, with the Cougars able to get the lead early, put some distance between themselves and their opponents, and get a lot of players in to the game.

“We got a little bit from everybody,” the coach pointed out. “We had eight different kids that scored, 12 different kids that carried the ball.”

The starters got the lead, the second and third units came in and built on it, with some scores on the ground and some through the air all adding up to the insurmountable lead by the end of two quarters.

Up 14-0 after one, Escalon scored seemingly at will in the second quarter, starting with an 18-yard reception by Jacob Salvador from quarterback Ben Hood, kick good by Diniz, to go up 21-0. Frankie Bavaro then went in from 5 yards out, kick good by Diniz, to make it 28-0 and it was 35-0 on a 19-yard reception by Lawrence from Hood, kick good by Diniz.

Joining the scoring parade before halftime were Wesley Dick, a 2-yard run with the kick good and Josh Redding, a 1-yard run with the kick good.

With the score 49-0 at the half, there was a running clock in the second half and though they trailed by seven scores, the Bruins continued to fight for yardage and battled to the whistle each time.

“I know that coaching staff and they are working hard but they are in one of the toughest leagues,” Loureiro said of Riverbank finding the going difficult in the TVL. “It takes two or three years of success to establish yourself in this league and it just has been tough for them to get anything going.”

Injuries and ineligibility doomed the Riverbank JV program and though a few players were taken up to the varsity, it almost looked as though the school’s cheerleading squad suited up more performers than the football team.

Escalon added a touchdown in the third quarter, with junior Gus Munoz – listed in the program at 5-3, 110 pounds – finding the end zone after having a couple of carries, taking it across the line from 3 yards out.

“That was a real crowd pleaser,” Loureiro said of the touchdown from the team’s smallest player, who was hoisted onto the shoulders of teammates as he reached the sidelines, celebrating the score.

“I can’t describe it, honestly,” Munoz said of getting his first varsity touchdown. “I couldn’t stop smiling the whole time, there’s no other feeling like it, there really isn’t.”

The point after attempt didn’t split the uprights, but the Cougars were cruising at 55-0 at the end of the third.

Riverbank answered that drive with one of their own, quarterback Freddie Capas going in from seven yards out and then Capas making the toss to Kory Gilbert for the 2-point conversion to make it 55-8 early in the fourth quarter. But Brandon Grogan found the seam on the ensuing kickoff and returned it 99 yards for a touchdown, Diniz added the point after for a 62-8 advantage.

The Bruins would find a way to push one more across the line late in the fourth quarter, Austin Wey going in on a 2-yard run. The 2-point conversion failed and the Cougars were able to run out the clock with the 62-14 win in hand.

For the game, Riverbank had four first downs, Escalon 12 and the Bruins had 57 total yards to Escalon’s 276. The Bruins passed for 58 yards and had 25 rushing plays for minus one yard on the ground. Escalon had 37 passing yards, and rushed 40 times for 239 yards.

Riverbank had 16 pass attempts and seven completions with one interception, pulled down by Lance Davis, who made some headway toward the end zone before he lost his footing and went out of bounds short of scoring. Riverbank also fumbled once and lost it, picked up by Cougar Zack Hernandez. The Bruins were penalized three times for 20 yards; Escalon had four penalties for 35 yards, had no fumbles and completed 2-of-3 pass attempts with no interceptions.

“Defensively, we were led by Collin Strasser with seven tackles and two sacks, Javier Perez had five tackles and a sack,” said Loureiro. “Thomas Diniz had five tackles, Devyn Roque, Clayton Akers and Marcus Williams all had sacks.”

Key for the Cougars, added the coach, was getting the victory to reach the 6-win plateau to make the playoffs and getting everyone some playing time, especially seniors, in taking a win in their final game at home.

“We’re rested, we’re healthy,” the coach said following the contest, meeting with his players in the postgame huddle. “Now it’s real … come back hungry, we should be able to make something of this.”

Escalon will be on the road to start the playoffs, traveling to Sutter Creek to face off with Amador on Friday, Nov. 15.