Taking what appeared to be a solid 35-12 lead into the locker room at halftime, Escalon’s varsity football team withstood a furious second half comeback attempt by Mountain House, holding on for a 49-34 win.
The action was at Engel Field on Friday night, Oct. 13, Escalon’s first game at home since Sept. 1. The Cougars made the most of their Homecoming game on the gridiron, with crowning of new Queen Grace Fitzgerald and recognition for the Senior Class float competition win as part of the night’s festivities.
“We’re definitely happy with the victory,” said head coach Mark Loureiro. “We were machine-like in the first half on offense.”
The host Cougars scored two touchdowns in the first quarter, three more in the second. Mountain House countered with two scores in the second but failed to convert the extra point attempts, trailing 35-12 midway through the game.
First quarter scoring saw Elliott Mello go in from 2 yards out, Kaden Christensen scoring on a 22-yard run. Rodrigo DeMelo put the extra point through both times. He was a perfect 7-for-7 on the night.
In the second quarter, Max Nicholas pulled in a 38-yard pass from quarterback Steven Grossi for a score, kick good, to go up 21-0. The visiting Mustangs scored on an 8-yard run, two-point attempt failed, to make it 21-6. Mello then scored on a 2-yard run and Christensen broke off a 39-yard run for a score to put the Cougars up 35-6. Just before half, Mountain House converted on a 27-yard pass play, two-point attempt failed, to make it 35-12.
“Last week, our defense stepped up against Hilmar and it was nice for the offense to support our defense for once,” Grossi said. “It seemed like the outside runs were working, we bounced to the outside and the running backs were running hard. The first half, we just seemed unstoppable.”
Though he didn’t get in the end zone, Hugo Alcala again had some tough runs for gains and also returned some of the punts and kickoffs.
“We just needed to step up, the offense needed to score,” he said. “Now we’ll get ready for Ripon, day by day, practice hard and focus.”
Escalon had to kick off to the visitors to start the third quarter and the Mustangs wasted no time in announcing they were there for the full game, battling until the end.
They scored on a 5-yard run to trim the lead to 35-20 with the successful two-point conversion.
Escalon was able to answer back quickly, Mello going in from 27 yards out just over two minutes later, the kick was good, the Cougars went up 42-20.
But with an 11-yard run by the Mustangs, two-point conversion good, and a nine-yard scoring run in the closing minute of the third quarter, two-point conversion good, Mountain House was within striking distance at 42-34.
The Mustangs attempted the onside kick but Mello gathered the ball in. Still, it was a quick possession as the Cougars had to punt the ball away. Driving as the fourth quarter got underway, the Mustangs went for it on a fourth and one, only to have Estephan Salcedo sniff out the play and stop the runner in the backfield.
“They battled and really tested us,” said Nash Satnat, among the team leaders in tackles.
He said the quick strikes by Mountain House put the Cougars into the same mindset.
“It made us think about how to act back, it was a good learning process,” he said.
After the Mustangs clawed their way back into the contest, the Cougars had to answer.
Escalon’s next possession took three minutes off the clock and ended with a Christensen four-yard touchdown run, kick good, for a 49-34 advantage. Neither team would score again.
“There were a lot of positives and when it’s all said and done, we got the win,” Loureiro said. “We got sloppy on defense in the second half and need to get better.”
Guillermo Alvarez had eight kickoffs on the night, sending six of them into the end zone. Offensively, Christensen had nine carries for 179 yards and three touchdowns, Mello had 16 carries for 103 yards and three touchdowns. Jake Lewis again picked up tough yards, 12 carries for 64 yards. Nicholas had the other score, coming on the big pass reception.
“Trent Cummings and Jacob Walden did a great job up front, our down blocks Eduardo Marrufo, Damien Tom and Nash Satnat did well, our O line had a nice push all night,” Loureiro explained.
Defensive leaders were Nash Satnat, Cuyler Crawford, Lucca Dutra and Estephan Salcedo, recording eight tackles each, while Cole Gilbert had a sack.
“Give Mountain House credit, they fought, they didn’t give up,” said Loureiro.
Statistically, the teams were pretty evenly matched. Escalon had 14 first downs, 416 total yards on 361 rushing yards, 55 passing yards. Mountain House had 12 first downs, 459 total yards, with 373 rushing yards and 86 in the air. Escalon was penalized six times for 50 yards; Mountain House seven times for 55 yards.
This week, Escalon travels to nearby Ripon to renew their rivalry with the Indians, with game time about 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 20.