A hectic summer of 7-on-7 football has run its course for the Escalon Cougars and coaches are pretty happy with what they saw.
The squad lined up against several other area teams over the course of the past few weeks and took part in a couple of tournaments, wrapping up the schedule on Saturday, July 8 at the MJC Tournament.
“We played pretty well and in our pool we only lost to Sonora, that was by one point,” varsity head coach Mark Loureiro said of a solid effort in Saturday’s finale. “We did come back and beat Hilmar at the end of the day, that was good for the kids.”
Working with a group of primarily incoming juniors and seniors, a few sophomores also spent the summer campaign getting in some valuable work.
“We’re more athletic this year than last,” Loureiro pointed out. “And there is a lot of depth; that creates competition.”
Splitting the reps under center were Stephen Grossi and Lucca Dutra.
“Both quarterbacks had their moments, there’s a good competition there,” noted Loureiro. “The play of Max Nicholas improved, he just really elevated every time he played and Nash Satnat had some great games at linebacker. All the kids played well, they played hard.”
Loureiro, who spent part of his summer traveling to assist with Wing-T camps, credited JV head coach Andrew Beam and assistants Victor Carrillo, Brant Rose and Brandon Hoover with keeping the kids ready for competition and working with them in all facets of the game.
“We definitely have made a lot of improvement,” said Loureiro.
Thursday evening, July 6, the Cougars hosted a 7-on-7 event, featuring Central Catholic, Chavez, Sonora, Ripon Christian, Waterford, Linden and Escalon. The host Cougars faced off against Ripon Christian, Central Catholic, Chavez and Sonora in the round robin style competition. The 20 minute ‘games’ utilized a formula where the offensive team had three downs to get the ball from the 40-yard line to the 25, two additional downs to get from the 25 to the 10, followed by three downs to get into the end zone from the 10-yard line.
Teams had the opportunity to run both offense and defense and Beam said the summer competition has been good for both players and coaches.
“We’ve had them going all summer, it helps on defense, especially, the 7 on 7 and we’ve played just about every Tuesday and Thursday this summer,” Beam explained.
They have seen basically the same teams all summer and Beam said they have had roughly 20 players each time, as the Cougars work around family vacations, fair and work commitments to get in some solid practices and strategy sessions.
“I feel like this is going to help, we’re gaining an edge for the season,” incoming senior Steven Grossi said.
From his perspective, the quarterback said having the chance to work with receivers and read defenses lining up against him offered plenty of value and he expects that to help him on the offensive side of the ball as well. He said the Delta College Tournament was most beneficial for him, and the team also won two games and lost one there.
“We got a lot of good experience out of it,” Grossi said.
Safety and incoming senior Estephan Salcedo agreed that the work this summer should pay dividends on the field come fall.
“This is giving us better reads on offenses, it’s more of a defensive thing,” he said of what he is gaining through the 7-on-7 action. “We’re doing good, working hard for this season.”
Coming off a season where they didn’t make the playoffs, the Cougars will look to get back to basics and regain a foothold in the Trans-Valley League. Loureiro said what he has seen this summer has given him plenty of optimism for the season ahead.
“This year there’s a whole lot of depth, kids that may have had a position last year will have to fight for it this year, that makes our practices better and that means the team will be better,” Loureiro said. “We’re young in the line, we need a lot of work there because we only return a couple of back-ups, but all the kids have been working hard.”
Not only did the players show up and play hard for the 7-on-7 events, Loureiro said he has also seen dedication in the weight room, as the kids get ready for the fall campaign.
“We did have three sophomores up with us this summer that we’re taking a look at, we have a lot of juniors that will be pushing the seniors … we’ll see what happens,” Loureiro said.