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As unlikely as it seems, a win on the road at Modesto Christian on Friday night gets Escalon into the playoffs.

In a league that has seen two teams rise above the rest – Hilmar and Ripon – the Cougars are still battling for a third place finish. Three Trans-Valley League teams go to the playoffs this season.

“That’s our number one goal,” said head coach Mark Loureiro of getting to the postseason. “If we win, we’re in the playoffs; that’s the way it is, the winner of the MC-Escalon game goes.”

Loureiro is hoping that fact will provide some extra incentive to a team that suffered a demoralizing loss to Ripon on Friday night at Engel Field, 24-10. It was Escalon’s Senior Night but the Indians spoiled the party.

Now, the Cougars have two choices: regroup and put their best effort of the season together on the road Friday night or stay stuck in the bad feeling of the loss to Ripon and let their chance for postseason play slip away.

“There’s a lot at stake,” agreed Loureiro. “We need to show up and play.”

Modesto Christian comes in at 3-5 overall, 1-2 in league, the same record as the Cougars have compiled.

“They lost last week, 45-28 to Hilmar,” Loureiro said.

The Crusaders are low on numbers, dressing out just 18 players under head coach Mike Parsons. But they return all-TVL player Chris Brown, a senior running back and free safety who has been called into action as a quarterback due to an injury.

“He’s a running quarterback,” Loureiro said.

Other key players are running back/linebacker Paul Puaauli, receiver Emoni Karriem, and linemen Joseph Yanez and Ryan Higginbotham.

“We have to control Brown and Karriem, control them and control the ball,” Loureiro said.

Kickoff will be about 7:30 p.m. on Friday night, Oct. 28.