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Panero, Hale Lead JV Cougars Past Liberty In Road Win
JV defense
Several JV defenders close in on the Liberty runner, getting ready to make the stop. Escalon won the game on the road, 44-14. Marg Jackson/The Times

Fifteen points in the first quarter, eight in the second and a 21-point outburst in the third carried Escalon’s JV football team to a solid 44-14 road win on Friday.

The team traveled to Madera, taking on Liberty High School in the non-league contest.

“It was a long trip, an awkward trip, we hit traffic because of a wreck on Highway 99, we got there at 4:25 p.m. and the game was at 5 p.m.,” explained head coach Andrew Beam. “We didn’t get much of a chance to warm up.”

Escalon came out strong, though, with the two touchdowns in the first quarter. Liberty had a touchdown in the second quarter and one in the fourth.

“On the second play of the game, Colton Panero had a 72-yard touchdown run and the point after touchdown kick was good by Ricky Erazo,” Beam said of taking an early 7-0 lead.

Liberty then got a couple of first downs but ultimately had to punt the ball away without getting into scoring position.

“On the second play of that possession, Colton went in from 33 yards out for the touchdown,” Beam noted.

This time, the Cougars went for the 2-point conversion and got it, Bryan Hale taking the ball in from three yards out.

“We ran just four plays in the first quarter but had 113 yards,” noted Beam.

Liberty had nearly twice the amount of offensive plays as the Cougars for the game, but it didn’t translate on the scoreboard. Escalon was able to strike quickly, making the most of their possessions.

In the second quarter, after holding Liberty in check and forcing them to punt, Panero torched the special teams defense for another score, this time going in from 69 yards out and Hale running in the 2-point conversion to make it a 23-0 Escalon lead.

“They got a score right before halftime and tried the 2-point conversion but failed, so we were up 23-6 at the half,” said Beam. “They ran 34 plays to our 11 in the first half, 60 total plays to our 33 for the game.”

Escalon had an interception and two fumbles during the game, the uncharacteristic turnovers slowing their momentum somewhat. But they were able to overcome the miscues and keep Liberty on their heels.

“The first play of the third quarter, Panero got a fumble recovery,” the coach said of returning the miscue favor.

The third quarter really belonged to Hale, as he scored all three of the JV touchdowns in that frame, from two, 11 and 75 yards out on rushing plays. The point after kick by Erazo was through the uprights every time, extending the lead to 44-6.

That resulted in a running clock in the fourth quarter and Liberty did get one late score, and the 2-point conversion but left the field with the Cougars having the upper hand in the 44-14 final score.

“Defensively, Kaidence Trejo had an interception, Luke Anderson had 15 tackles, Colton Panero had 15 tackles, Jacob Sizelove had a sack,” said Beam. “We played much better in the second half and closed them out.”

The JV team lost starting quarterback Ty Harris early in the week to a broken collarbone, with sophomore Wyatt McCune stepping in to take the snaps under center.

“He led the offense in his first start at the JV level, he did well,” Beam said of McCune.

The next three games for the JV team will see a big jump in the talent they will face, the coach noted, starting with Liberty Ranch out of Galt, with a 5 p.m. start time on the road this Friday, Sept. 15.

“I’m excited to see how we respond,” Beam said.