Turnabout is fair play. For Escalon, they were the team that did the turning and they put the hurt on Modesto Christian on Friday night, just as Ripon had done to them the week prior.
In a home game with major implications, the host Cougars put together their best effort of the season so far, taking a 37-14 win over the Crusaders.
“It was huge, a huge swing of momentum … we were just on them,” said senior Max Nicholas, who made the most of the passes thrown his way on Friday night, notching a touchdown for his team. “It was just an outstanding job by our defense.”
Head coach Mark Loureiro said the team talked during the week of preparation about the need to be aggressive on the defensive side of the ball, coming off a 32-14 loss to Ripon on the road.
“We punched them right in the mouth,” the coach said. “We staggered ‘em.”
Escalon’s offense also was efficient and scored quickly, taking an early 21-0 lead before many people had settled comfortably into their seats.
Defensively, the Cougars recorded four sacks, three interceptions and a couple fumble recoveries.
“Of their 25 rushing plays, only nine got positive yards,” added Loureiro of his team frustrating Modesto Christian at every turn. “Our defense has taken a beating from some people talking out there … I’m real proud of those kids.”
Elliott Mello – who did the bulk of the scoring on Friday night – agreed that defense was the most important factor, as the team looked to atone for the rough outing the previous week.
“We worked hard to shut down the run,” Mello said, adding that it was “an amazing feeling” to slam the door in Modesto Christian’s face throughout the game.
He said the team stayed focused in practice all week and he knew the squad would come out ready.
“We owed it to the fans, we owed this one to Coach Lou,” Mello said of getting the win and setting themselves up for a chance to get a share of the league title.
Also solidly in the mix on both sides of the ball, junior Kaden Christensen pointed to the leadership of the seniors as being key during the week of preparation.
“It was a different team this week,” he admitted.
The Cougars kicked off but forced a quick punt from the Crusaders and then scored on their first possession, Elliott Mello going in from two yards out with Rodrigo DeMelo adding the point after. On Modesto Christian’s next possession – and roughly 20 seconds after the first Cougar touchdown, Mello stepped in front of a pass and returned it 24 yards for his second score of the night. With the DeMelo kick, it was 14-0.
Another quick possession by MC, another Escalon touchdown on their next possession, this time a 65-yard off tackle run by Mello, kick good by DeMelo, for a 21-0 lead.
“That all happened in about a minute and 20 second span,” Loureiro said. “In the second quarter we got a 29-yard field goal from Guillermo Alvarez.”
That put the Cougars up 24-0 but a late pass interference call on the host team resulted in a second chance for MC on a drive and they capitalized with a touchdown and extra point to trail 24-8 at the half.
In the third quarter, Max Nicholas pulled in a 9-yard toss from quarterback Steven Grossi.
“It was a great one-handed catch, he tipped it up to himself in the end zone,” Loureiro said of the highlight reel catch from Nicholas. The extra point try was no good but it was a 30-8 lead.
Modesto Christian cut it to 30-14 on a touchdown and failed two-point attempt; the Cougars put the final touchdown on the board on a one-yard run by Mello, the kick good by DeMelo for the 37-14 final.
“Defensively, Nash Satnat had seven tackles and a fumble recovery, Hugo Alcala, Elliott Mello and Nick DeWeerd had interceptions,” said Loureiro. “Cole Gilbert had two sacks, Damien Tom and Cuyler Crawford each had a sack, Estephan Salcedo led us with eight tackles.”
He also praised the efforts of Alvarez on kick offs, angling away from MC’s top return man, and Gilbert, getting off good punts.
The offense churned up the yards but it was the defense that was the true star on the night, added the coach.
“In many ways, we played perfect football at some points in that game,” said Loureiro.
Mello had 18 carries for 130 yards and four touchdowns, Christensen had seven carries for 56 yards and Jake Lewis pounded out some tough yards and first downs.
“We had a good night offensively but the defense set it up,” Loureiro said.
The Cougars had 258 yards of offense, with 41 rushing plays for 235 yards and three pass completions for 23 yards. Modesto Christian had 198 yards, 25 rushing plays for 51 yards and 14 pass completions for 147 yards.
Escalon hosts Hughson in the regular season finale on Friday night, Nov. 3. Senior Paul Ayala said he knows the team will head into that game with one goal in mind – win.
“It’s Cougar football,” said Ayala. “We’re going to play 100 percent, put it all on the field … keep playing until the whistle blows.”