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Second Half Spells Trouble For Varsity Cougars
punt VAR
Getting the punt off is Nick DeWeerd, able to get it up and over the Calaveras defender rushing in. Escalon had a 16-14 lead at the half but lost the Friday night road game, 45-16. Times Photos By Marg Jackson

What started out well, with a 16-14 lead at the half, quickly fell apart once the second half whistle blew.

Giving up 31 unanswered points over the third and fourth quarters, Escalon’s varsity football team fell by a 45-16 final at Calaveras High School in San Andreas on Friday night.

Host Calaveras won the toss and elected to kick off, forcing Escalon to punt the ball away after their first series of plays. Calaveras then went on a drive that saw them convert a couple of first downs, but the Escalon defense came away with a huge stop, ending the drive by stopping the hosts on a fourth and one at the 11-yard line, taking over on downs.

A couple of plays later, C.J. Gumbs found the end zone on a 76-yard touchdown reception catch and run and the kick by Rodrigo DeMelo was good for a 7-0 Cougar lead with 5:10 to go in the first quarter.

The picture got even brighter a couple of minutes later, after forcing a Calaveras punt on a fourth and 25, Gumbs had a strong return and then converted on a 43-yard touchdown run. The point after attempt was wide left, the Cougars settling for a 13-0 lead with 3:08 to play in the first.

“In the first half, we played really well,” said head coach Mark Loureiro. “We want to build off that.”

Calaveras got on the scoreboard as the second quarter started, converting at the 11:11 mark and the kick good, trimming the lead to 13-7. After trading possessions, Escalon tacked on a 32-yard field goal with 3:33 to go in the half, making it 16-7. But Calaveras again answered back, getting another touchdown before the end of the half and making it 16-14.

The home team then made adjustments at halftime that turned the game around, finding ways to blow past the defense and take advantage of their speed, the Cougars unable to contain senior running back Noah Preuss.

“We ran out of gas,” admitted Loureiro. “We’re not deep in any position, we had a couple of kids nicked up, C.J. Gumbs and Blue Capps, Dylan Azevedo was a little banged up at quarterback.”

With a decided lack of depth in some key spots, Loureiro said his seconds and thirds just did not match up well against Calaveras.

In the second half, all the scoring was by the home team, Calaveras getting in the end zone on a 26-yard run, 13-yard run, a 41-yard fumble recovery returned for a score, a 95-yard run and a 30-yard touchdown run to close out the scoring.

“We lost to a better team,” the coach said. “The seconds and thirds saw why they are seconds and thirds and that one kid from Calaveras (Preuss) rushed for 248 yards and four touchdowns against us. He’s a man amongst boys out there; he’s still running around somewhere.”

The goal going in was to contain the speedy Calaveras runners; the Cougars were able to do that in the first half but not in the second.

“They did what we were afraid they would, they ran it right at us and wore us out,” explained Loureiro. “This is one of Calaveras’s best teams in years. We were thrilled in the position we were in at halftime, but we just couldn’t stop them.”

A little bruised and a little battered, the Cougars found themselves being pushed around by the tough, physical Calaveras team that exacted a little revenge. Escalon has had the upper hand the last several seasons, including during postseason play, but the host squad was able to return the favor this time.

Calaveras had 12 first downs and 472 total yards on the night, with 51 rushing plays for 411 yards and four-of-10 pass completions for 61 yards. Escalon had seven first downs, 240 total yards and they rushed 33 times for 142 yards. Azevedo completed 3-of-7 pass attempts for 98 yards, Gumbs pulling in all three passes. Calaveras did not fumble; Escalon had two fumbles and lost them both. Calaveras had two penalties for 15 yards, Escalon was penalized just one time for five yards.

“It was a pretty clean game and we played well early, we just ran out of gas,” Loureiro said.

Gumbs scored both Escalon touchdowns and had eight carries for 76 yards in addition to his three receptions for 98 yards. Hugo Alcala had a couple of good blocks that helped Gumbs gain the yardage on the ground. Rodrigo DeMelo added a 32-yard field goal and hit one of two extra point attempts.

Defensively, Tyler Voral had 12 tackles, Tyler Swinford had 10 and Elliott Mello added eight.

The Cougars will look to get back on track this week, as they play their first home game of the season on Friday night. Escalon will welcome Liberty High out of Madera for the contest, with the varsity kick off about 7:30 p.m.

Liberty is 0-2 on the season, having lost their opener 28-26 to Firebaugh and, this past week, falling by a 26-19 decision to Mendota.