It’s almost a ‘must win’ game.
In fact, for head coach Mark Loureiro and his varsity football Cougars, traveling to take on the Hilmar Yellowjackets this Friday night will have major implications for the rest of the season.
Both Escalon and Hilmar lost their league opening games his past week, Escalon losing to Hughson (See story, photos in Sports, page A10) and Hilmar taking a 52-35 loss at Ripon.
Each team is hungry for a win and both needing one to help get one game closer to a postseason berth.
“They are an excellent team at home,” Loureiro said of the Yellowjackets, who are now 3-3 overall and 0-1 in league. Escalon also comes in at 3-3, 0-1 with the loss to Hughson.
Frank Marques is the Hilmar coach and will lead his team into the TVL clash with Daniel Texeira at quarterback, top rushers Josh Jennings, Cody Rentfro and Noah Batista, leading receiver Brandon Almeida and linebacker Jarrod Willis anchoring the line.
Following a tough opening loss at home, Loureiro challenged his troops in their post-game huddle.
“Show some guts,” he said. “If you sit around and feel sorry for yourselves, it’s going to get worse.”
The coach said his team has the opportunity to get to the playoffs, but has to play error free and bring passion and a sense of urgency to each game.
Team captains agreed the varsity squad needs to regroup and get focused on the next task.
“We have to come back and work hard this week, that has to be our mindset,” said captain Dustin Lawrence. “We really do need to step up our game.”
Captain Daniel Gonzalez said just as Friday night’s loss to Hughson was a team loss, it will take a team effort to get back on track.
“We need to play as a team more,” Gonzalez said. “I feel like they (Hughson) had more want, they wanted to win more. We just need to pick each other up.”
For captain Logan Widmer, it simply came down to toughness between the lines.
“We weren’t physical in this game,” he said. “We have to not be scared of the team we play.”
He said his job, and that of his fellow captains, is to get the Cougars ready for Hilmar.
“We need to keep everyone up, positive, we have a tough opponent coming up,” Widmer said. “We just have to realize all these games are must wins.”
That’s a statement echoed by Loureiro.
“It’s really a must game for both teams,” the coach said. “I hope we can bounce back.”