Hughson had a couple of big weapons.
And they turned out to be more than enough.
Escalon opened its Trans-Valley League football campaign on the home field on Friday night, but let Hughson come in and take the game away from them, falling to the visiting Huskies by a 28-14 verdict.
A lackluster first half effort doomed the Cougars, who fought back valiantly in the second half but learned it was too little, too late against the Huskies, who have now rolled to a 6-0 start overall, 1-0 in league.
“I was really disappointed in how we played in the first half,” admitted Escalon head coach Mark Loureiro. “We’re a way better team than we showed in that first half. They were more physical, they ran the ball right at us, they had 37 plays to our 12 in that first half.”
Hughson utilized the services of burly fullback Justice Futch (5-11, 235) to power through and, when he got all the attention, handed the ball to slippery running back Cesar Cuevas (5-7, 160) to get the job done. Between the two, they rolled up the yardage and the touchdowns, as the Huskies had a total of 437 yards of offense to Escalon’s 235.
Hughson scored two touchdowns in the first quarter, Escalon got one in the second – with the extra point no good – and Hughson also added one in that frame to lead it 21-6 at halftime.
A rejuvenated Cougar squad came out of the locker room at halftime and cut the deficit to 21-14 in the third quarter, clawing their way back in it.
“I just think they jumped on us and we didn’t respond,” Loureiro said of the first half difficulties for his team. “But we came out and gave a very good effort in the second half, played with a little bit more emotion.”
Escalon’s first touchdown came on a pass from Dylan Azevedo to Sam Lattig, with the kick by David Martinez no good. The third quarter score came on another Azevedo pass, this one to Hunter Calton, and Azevedo hooked up with Dustin Lawrence for the 2-point conversion to cut the Huskies lead to 21-14.
After a Bo Capps interception later in the third quarter, the Cougars looked poised to get the tying score.
“It was then we thought maybe we had a chance at this thing,” Loureiro said. “Then we have two bad holding penalties and a dropped first down catch, we just couldn’t put it together.”
Hughson scored on runs of 53, 13, 19 and 44 yards on the night. Escalon countered with the 15-yard pass play to Lattig and a 14-yard strike to Calton.
“After it got to 21-14, we slugged it out with them, possessions going back and forth,” Loureiro said of finally falling into a bit of a rhythm. “That fullback wore on us, he commands respond and you pay so much attention to him, somebody else hurts you.”
Hughson had 391 yards rushing on 51 plays; Escalon had 134 yards rushing on 24 plays, with 101 yards passing for a total of 235 yards on the night. Hughson added 46 yards passing for 437 total yards.
Calton was the leading rusher, 9 carries for 75 yards, Lattig was the leading receiver, four catches for 71 yards. Dustin Lawrence paced the defense with 13 tackles, Luis Estrada had 10 and Logan Widmer added eight.
“We were disappointed as a staff,” added Loureiro of the outcome. “I felt we had a better shot at Hughson than we did at Hilmar.”
Now, the Cougars have to take their 0-1 record to Hilmar on Friday night, literally battling for their playoff lives.
Hilmar is in the same position, opening up with a loss to Ripon and now 0-1 in league play.
“We are not talented enough to make mistakes,” Loureiro said. “We have to play error free football to win and we didn’t on Friday night.”
The Cougars most definitely have to take their ‘A’ game to Hilmar, as every TVL contest now is crucial to postseason hopes. Kickoff will be about 7:30 p.m.