Suffering their first loss of the season, the Escalon JV football team lost much more than just a game on Friday night.
Early in the Oct. 6 contest, two-way standout player Colton Panero went down with a season-ending injury. The incident shook up the entire team, said head coach Andrew Beam, and made it tough for the squad to stay focused on the task at hand.
Escalon ultimately fell to host Hilmar by a 34-6 final.
“It was a rough one,” Beam admitted. “It’s a game that we will feel the rest of the year, the loss of the best two-way player in the league.”
Panero, one of the team captains, was on defense making a tackle, and got his foot caught in the ground at the end of the play. It twisted unnaturally and Panero also got rolled up on by another player; the end result including some broken bones and no more football this season – and likely no basketball during the winter season.
“That happened early in the game and the whole first half we just tried to figure out what to do without Colton,” Beam said of the team battling to get back in sync.
Hilmar scored one touchdown in the first quarter, two more in the second and converted on two of three point-after attempts, leading 20-0 at the half.
Though thrown by the injury, Beam said the JV team steeled its resolve at halftime, deciding to come out and fight rather than just roll over.
“We ran the ball 12 times in the third quarter, got a touchdown, I was pleased with how much toughness they showed,” said Beam. “Luke Anderson got our lone rushing touchdown.”
The point after attempt was blocked, but the JV Cougars had gotten to within 20-6. Hilmar was able to tack on a couple of late scores, taking the 34-6 win. Those late touchdowns came after Escalon had to take some chances that ultimately didn’t pan out, giving Hilmar good field position.
“What hurt us was the big play,” Beam added, with one touchdown strike of 62 yards, another for 90 among the Hilmar scores. “I think the game was closer than it showed.”
The coach pointed to the efforts of Miguel Souza and Garrett Nash for taking on the bulk of work on the offensive side in Panero’s absence.
“Both stepped up and did well,” said Beam. “Souza also had an interception, Nash had a fumble recovery.”
Escalon had just 102 yards on the night, Hilmar rolled up 387.
The game was not the way the JV Cougars wanted to start the league campaign, taking a loss after playing to a 5-0 mark in preseason. This week, they will be at home, hosting Mountain House in the first game of the Homecoming doubleheader on Friday night, Oct. 13.
“Mountain House is much improved, they gave Ripon a run for their money this past week,” said Beam. “We need to shuffle some guys around, put the best team we can out there.”
Kickoff on Friday at Engel Field for the JV game will be at 5:30 p.m.