It’s hard to argue with the final outcome, a 36-6 win, but Escalon head coach Mark Loureiro and his Cougars know they have to be better this week.
Winning their opening round football playoff game at home against Mariposa on Thursday night, Nov. 9, Escalon will be back on the home field this week, taking on Hilmar.
“We jumped up 20-0 in the first quarter and it was 27-0 at the half,” Loureiro said of putting away Mariposa. “But I thought we were a little sloppy, I felt we didn’t block well, at times we didn’t tackle well. It seems odd to be complaining when you win by 30 but against good teams like Hilmar, we can’t do that.”
Escalon may not have played their best game, but against Mariposa, it was good enough to earn the victory. The Cougars, the number two seed in Division 6, poured it on early.
First quarter scoring came on a 33-yard run by Kaden Christensen, a 13-yard run by Jordan Gwartney and a seven-yard run by Christensen. Adding the extra point on two of the three scores was Rodrigo DeMelo; one attempt was wide left.
Still, the Cougars were up by a 20-0 score after the first 12 minutes and they added another touchdown in the second quarter. This time, it was Steven Grossi finding Max Nicholas on a 20-yard pass play to end zone, the kick was good and the home team enjoyed a 27-0 edge at the half.
“The physicality was there,” Christensen said of taking on the Grizzlies.
They also had to come together after Hugo Alcala went out early with an injury.
“We persevered,” he said.
Trent Cummings said the win in the opening round was “amazing” and he wants to keep that going.
“I’ve had this dream of being in playoffs since I was a kid,” he said. “We’re a strong team … it feels like we can make our own destiny.”
Mariposa got on the scoreboard in the third quarter on a 53-yard run, the point after attempt failed, with the Grizzlies cutting the deficit to 27-6. They wouldn’t score any more, but Escalon would get a safety in the fourth quarter, as Cole Gilbert was held in the end zone while pursing the quarterback, putting the Cougars up 29-6. They added the final touchdown of the night on another pass play, this time from Lucca Dutra to Christensen, a 21-yard scoring strike. With the kick by DeMelo, it was 36-6.
“Kaden got off real well, they worked hard to take away (Elliott) Mello and that just opened up things for Kaden,” Loureiro said.
Grossi was efficient under center, he completed 4-of-6 passes for 100 yards in the first half, giving way in the second half to junior Dutra.
Defensively, the Cougars kept the pressure on throughout the night.
“We got five sacks and a lot of hurries and he was a good quarterback,” Loureiro said of the young Mariposa signal caller. “We put a lot of pressure on him.”
Cuyler Crawford had five tackles and two sacks, while Nash Satnat, Cole Gilbert and Damien Tom each had a sack as well. Nic Lattig had a fumble recovery and Dutra had an interception.
A junior, Dutra got the chance to come in for second half action at quarterback, and he was glad to get some work in.
“I knew we already had the win,” he said of the big lead at half. “I just wanted to help keep the win. I’m already looking to Friday, getting ready.”
Senior Nic Lattig said he is happy that the team worked hard to get back into the playoffs, making for a memorable final season for their head coach.
Offensively, Christensen had 14 carries for 147 yards rushing and caught two passes for 39 yards, accounting for three touchdowns. Mello had 18 carries for 93 yards. Gwartney had three carries for 27 yards and a touchdown, two catches for 81 yards and Nicholas had two catches for 26 yards and a touchdown.
“We had some solid play from other kids, Rhys Panero and Ethan Krieger in the second group came on and gave us good minutes,” said Loureiro. “We got banged up a little; it has been a long season for these kids.”
With the game played on Thursday night, Nov. 9 due to the Veterans Day observance on Friday, the Cougars do have an extra day this week to prepare for their Nov. 17 contest against Hilmar.