An unusual, almost eerie feel to Monday night’s football game saw a less than full house at Engel Field, as the Cougars hosted Bret Harte. Originally, Escalon was scheduled to travel to Angels Camp for the Sept. 11 game. But the Butte Fire proximity to Angels Camp and the bad air quality prompted a move to Escalon and then the game was postponed from Friday night to Monday night.
With a few of the Bret Harte players and coaches among those displaced by the fire, it was a somewhat distracted Bullfrog team that took the field against the Cougars.
Escalon threatened to put the game away early, but the Bullfrogs battled back gamely, finding their focus, and forced the Cougars to make some adjustments at halftime. Second half play saw the host team steadily pull away, extending the lead far enough to allow for a running clock in the fourth quarter and taking the game by a 63-21 final.
“Offensively, I thought we clicked pretty well and we got lots of kids involved in the offense,” said head coach Mark Loureiro following the win. “I was real happy with the effort of a lot of the second string kids.”
For the Cougars, the evening started with them losing the toss and kicking off to Bret Harte, which elected to receive. But the Bullfrogs had a quick three and out and Hunter Calton put the Cougars in good field position on the punt return. Tyler Swinford had a couple of carries on the first possession for the Cougars, including the one he carried in for a touchdown with 8:36 to play in the first quarter. David Martinez added the extra point for an early 7-0 lead.
Another Bret Harte punt on their next possession set up a Hunter Calton score, the drive aided by a 15-yard pass interference call against the Bullfrogs. Calton went in from 4 yards out with 4:21 to play in the first, Martinez tacked on the extra point and it was 14-0 Cougars.
A second Calton touchdown late in the first was called back on a penalty on the Cougars, but they added three scores in the second quarter, three touchdowns in the third and a final one in the fourth quarter. Bret Harte got a pair of scores in the second quarter, one in the third.
The Cougars did go up 21-0, scoring just five seconds into the second quarter, a 5-yard rumble by Swinford and the kick by Martinez.
Bret Harte quarterback Mike Ziehlke did much of the damage against Escalon, keeping the ball and plunging straight ahead for the first Bullfrog score of the night with 6:58 to play in the second. The kick was good and it was 21-7 Escalon. Cougar C.J. Gumbs slashed his way to an answering score with 3:39 left in the half, Martinez added the extra point for a 28-7 lead. Another Ziehlke keeper, though, with 2:21 to go made it 28-14.
Chris Pilcher closed out the Cougar scoring in the first half on a 19-yard pass play from quarterback Dylan Azevedo with the kick good for a 35-14 edge.
“It was difficult for us,” Loureiro admitted of adjusting to a Monday night kickoff, having the long layoff since Friday. “We lost our edge defensively early, this was a good wake up call for us.”
The Cougars did focus more on defense in the second half, allowing just a third quarter TD to the Bullfrogs while seeing Timmy Costa and C.J. Gumbs find the end zone for the Cougars, Costa on a roughly 20-yard run and Gumbs on an 84-yard kickoff return in the third quarter. Closing out the scoring in that frame was Julio Mendoza, a 15-yard touchdown run for the Cougars with 2:42 left in the third.
Leading 56-21, the officials set the running clock in motion for the fourth quarter.
Escalon saw some good work by several players, including interceptions by Luis Estrada and Trenton Busch, and a fumble recovery by Daniel Gonzalez. Final touchdown of the night for Escalon was scored by Martinez on a 75-yard rumble with 1:28 to play. He also added the point after for the 63-21 final.
“A lot of heroes tonight, a lot of guys got better,” Loureiro said.
Martinez – with the big TD run – was Escalon’s leading rusher on the night, three carries for 77 yards. Azevedo completed four of five passes for 78 yards, Dustin Lawrence had two receptions for 34 yards.
“It’s going to be a tough turnaround,” Loureiro noted of having to quickly get ready for a Friday night road trip to Galt to face Liberty Ranch on Sept. 18. “We need to bounce back; we could be the first team in Escalon history to win two games in a week.”