“Nice way to end our season,” commented Coach Roger Beeman on the freshman Cougars’ 26-18 victory over Ripon on Thursday night. “It was a great team effort with several great individual performances. We still have difficulty with consistency, but the guys showed they can play at a high level for a complete game. That’s our goal every year.”
Quarterback Carson Grogan led a big play aerial attack that stunned Ripon. Grogan (8-12, 248 yards, 4 TDs, 0 interceptions) threw four touchdown passes, three to tight end Alexis Jimenez, to twice bring the Cougars from behind. The offensive line provided excellent protection for Grogan and also opened big holes for running backs Frank Leal, Jordan Gwartney, Roman Kualapai, and Brad DaDalt.
“Ripon is a tough team,” said Beeman. “They’ve been winning big. They beat Hilmar earlier this year, and Hilmar is the only team to beat us. Ripon was down to about 15 kids, so our game plan was to wear them down with our line. We can rotate about 15 or 16 guys on our offensive and defensive lines, and by the second half we had a definite advantage.”
Ripon opened the scoring with a 7-yard touchdown run midway through the first quarter. Escalon quickly responded with Grogan’s first touchdown pass to Jimenez, covering 67 yards, which knotted the score at 6-6.
Both teams scored again in the second quarter. Grogan hit Jimenez again for an 18 yard strike, but Ripon came back with a 1-yard run to tie the game at the half 12-12.
A scoreless third quarter gave way to a wild fourth. Ripon scored on the first play of the fourth quarter, a 21-yard run for an 18-12 lead. Once again, Escalon struck back quickly. This time it was Grogan to Devin Roberson, who wrestled the ball away from a Ripon defender and finished a 45-yard touchdown play. The sixth combined missed PAT conversion left the game tied at 18.
Following a recovery of a second Ripon fumble in the quarter, the Cougars were set to strike again. Grogan’s 18-yard pass to Jimenez was tipped and muffed by a Ripon defender before Jimenez dove, tipped it to himself, then secured it while lying on the ground in the end zone for the go-ahead score. Escalon capped the score with Roberson’s over the shoulder catch in the back of the end zone of Grogan’s two point PAT pass.
The Cougars finished at 4-2-1. The four TVL schools that field freshman teams took turns beating each other: Ripon beat Hilmar; Hilmar beat Escalon; Hughson beat Ripon; Escalon beat Hughson; etc. To further complicate the standings, a few of the league schools played each other twice.
“I’m not sure where we ended up in the standings,” said Beeman. “It’s probably a co-championship for us, but we lost to Hilmar who clearly outplayed us twice. Regardless, it was a good season, and we met most of our team goals. I think the guys are ready for the next level.”