Building up a 21-7 halftime lead, Escalon had to withstand a Ripon comeback attempt on Friday night, eventually escaping the Indians’ home field with a 33-20 victory.
The win clinched at least a share of the Trans-Valley League title for the JV football team.
Head coach Andrew Beam said there was plenty of chatter from the host Indians during warm-ups, as the battle was a showdown of two undefeated league teams.
“I told our kids, let’s talk with our pads, not our mouths,” Beam said of taking a hard-hitting, no-nonsense approach to the game.
The visiting Cougars opened the game with a “great drive,” said Beam, using lots of energy and efficient offense to go four plays and score.
Mark DeHaven scored from a yard out but the point after attempt was no good. Escalon took the 6-0 lead.
“They came down and scored right away, on a 40-yard pass play and made the point after so it was 7-6 Ripon,” Beam said of the host team answering.
A penalty cut Escalon’s next possession short but Lorenzo Martinez recovered an Indian fumble on the ensuing punt.
“Six plays later, Elliot Mello went in from a yard out,” Beam said.
The 2-point conversion failed but Escalon carried the 12-7 lead into the second quarter. Mello scored again in that frame, from 11 yards out, the 2-point attempt was no good but it was 18-7 Escalon. A Lucciano Dutra interception and return to the Ripon 30-yard line late in the quarter, followed by a catch by Nick DeWeerd deep in Indian territory set up a 22-yard field goal by Rodrigo DeMelo to cap the first half scoring. Escalon went in with a 21-7 lead after two quarters.
Hugo Alcala scored on a 1-yard plunge in the third, point after attempt was no good, but the JV Cougars were cruising at 27-7.
“Then it was a really fluky fourth quarter,” explained Beam. “We fumbled two times; they capitalized and scored 13 points on those turnovers to get it to 27-20 with eight minutes left.”
After Escalon had held the momentum nearly all game, Ripon started to take it away with the big plays in the fourth.
“You just had a feeling,” Beam said of letting the game slip away if they didn’t respond. “We had to answer, we went on a drive that had eight total plays, and capped it with a 41-yard touchdown run by DeHaven that put the game out of reach.”
The 33-20 score late in the fourth would hold up for the final. A late DeWeerd interception sealed the win.
“We dominated,” Beam said. “We had 351 total yards to their 152 and they had only two rushing yards. The mental toughness of these guys is incredible, they fought back against adversity. There was just so much energy on that sideline, and on the field.”
DeHaven rushed 22 times for 240 yards with two touchdowns, DeWeerd had a pair of interceptions and led a defense that allowed just one score. Ripon’s other two scores came off offensive turnovers.
Escalon improved to 4-0 in league, 8-1 overall with the win.
“We feel good, it has been five years since the JV team has won a championship,” Beam said.
They can clinch it outright with a win at home Friday night against Modesto Christian.
“I think they’ll come out and finish the job,” said Beam.
Kickoff will be at 5:30 p.m.