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Playoff Victory - Cougars Take Down Buffaloes In First Round Game
Frankie Bavaro hangs on to the ball and lunges forward as a herd of Buffaloes try to drag him down during Friday night action in Sutter Creek. He had a pair of touchdowns in Escalons 37-0 win. - photo by Marg Jackson/The Times

On the road as the Number 10 seed in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV football playoffs, the 6-4 Escalon Cougars headed to Sutter Creek on Friday night to take on the 9-1 Amador ‘Thundering Herd’ Buffaloes.

The Buffaloes are now 9-2 and done for the season.

Escalon improves to 7-4 and soundly thrashed the host team and higher seed by a 37-0 score, with every facet of the game working for the Cougars. Amador was held to a mere 75 yards of total offense and couldn’t get anything going on the ground, with a minus 1 yard rating in rushing.

“We finally put a whole game together,” Escalon head coach Mark Loureiro said. “Our physical style was too much, they are a finesse team and we’re a physical team.”

Escalon got on the board with a touchdown in the first quarter, added three more scores in the second and then had a touchdown and a field goal to seal the win in the final quarter. The defense did not allow any points and in fact forced four Amador turnovers, with three interceptions and one fumble recovery.

“Kids were flying to the ball, the whole defense was working,” agreed Loureiro. “We were able to pressure the quarterback all night; we had a lot of hits, a lot of hurries.”

Game time temperature was 45 degrees in Sutter Creek and the Buffaloes got the ball first, as Escalon won the toss but deferred.

It was a fast first possession, as the host team went three and out and the Cougars got things started with a 10-plus yard run from Frankie Bavaro on their first play from scrimmage. A 6-yard gain by Josh Redding, followed by rushing plays from Christian May and Bavaro kept the chains moving and Bavaro found the end zone after a 2-yard run for the score with 6:39 to go in the first quarter. The drive ate up several minutes and was capped off by the extra point from Thomas Diniz. He then sent the kickoff through the end zone for the touchback, putting the Buffaloes on the 20-yard line to start their possession.

An interception by Josh Redding was called back on a late hit on the quarterback, which gave the Buffaloes a second chance, but they then hurt themselves with a series of penalties and had to punt the ball away.

Escalon was driving as the first quarter ended, with a fourth and one at the 42-yard line, which they went for and got to keep the drive alive.

They scored on a May 2-yard dive into the end zone with 9:06 to go, the kick was good by Diniz and he again put it through the end zone on the kickoff, something he did routinely to the host team, never giving them a chance for a return.

Additional second quarter scores came from Wesley Dick, a 1-yard run, kick good and a 1-yard run from Bavaro, kick failed, to make it a 27-0 Cougar lead at the half.

“We had a good flow in the backfield, (quarterback) Ben Hood was 4-for-10 but just missed on a couple of shots,” Loureiro said of the offense getting into a rhythm. “I was real happy for the seniors, they weren’t ready to stop playing.”

Loureiro gave kudos to the offensive line, with Dominick Freeseha, Adam Roberson, Clayton Akers, Zach Withrow, Jacob Salvador and Jack Ballard all having solid games.

Bavaro ran the ball 22 times for 108 yards and two touchdowns, May had nine carries for 71 yards and a score, with Dick carrying the ball eight times for 42 yards and a touchdown. Tyler Lawrence, who got the fourth quarter touchdown from a yard out, had nine carries for 37 yards and the score. Diniz added a 36-yard field goal in the final quarter and also was solid defensively with an interception. Lawrence had a pick and Akers got the fumble recovery.

Lawrence also had a sack, Javier Perez had seven tackles and a sack, with six tackles from Collin Strasser and five from Lance Davis.

“We were just too much for them,” Loureiro said.

Escalon had a total of 356 yards on the night, 290 on the ground and 66 through the air, while Amador had 75 yards, with 79 passing and minus one rushing. Amador had five penalties for 50 yards, Escalon six for 60 and the Cougars had 18 first downs on the night compared to four for Amador.

Loureiro congratulated his players in the postgame huddle, noting it was the first full game they have played this season,

“Now we’re waking the whole world up,” he said of the team hitting its stride. “We’ve got a chance to go for revenge (against Hilmar) and I still know we’ve got our best game in us.”

Senior Luis Estrada agreed it was a total team effort against Amador and he is looking forward to the second round game with Hilmar.

“We’re going to have all the momentum in the world,” he said. “I think our composure is great right now and we’re up for this.”

For Akers, it was a satisfying victory.

“Everyone doubted us, we had a tough schedule early but we knew we had to come out and make a statement,” he said of the big shutout road win. “We’re stoked.”

The Cougars will look to avenge a regular season loss as they head to Hilmar for a Friday night, Nov. 22 contest at 7 p.m.