From a game standpoint, it couldn’t have gone much better.
Escalon soundly defeated Liberty Ranch in the first-ever meeting between the two teams, and the Cougars enjoyed a 27-0 victory for Homecoming.
The Sept. 19 contest saw the Cougars in control from the start, stopping the first Liberty Ranch drive of the night deep in their own territory.
“My hat is off to the defense,” said coach Mark Loureiro. “They made a big goal line stand on the first possession, we held them to five first downs and 154 yards total, it was a real nice effort defensively.”
With the defense clicking, the offense also found multiple ways to score, with senior quarterback Caleb Mullen having an efficient, effective game to lead the troops.
Several other players also stepped up the intensity.
“Javier Perez had six tackles, batted down a couple of passes,” said Loureiro. “A.J. Camarena had six tackles, Travis Nascimento had seven and Chris Pilcher had eight tackles.”
Interceptions on the night came from Christian May and Cameron Puthoff, while Andrew Panero had a fumble recovery and Adam Roberson recorded a sack.
The game started following festivities after the JV game, with the parade of Homecoming floats around the track and recognition for the Grand Marshals this year, retiring teachers/coaches Rusty Fachner and Gary Ball.
The varsity Cougars then won the toss and deferred, kicking off to Liberty Ranch and coming away with the tough defensive stand to turn back the early scoring attempt by the visitors. An exchange of possessions followed and the game made its way into the second quarter before the Cougars broke through, Camarena taking it in on a 19-yard rushing touchdown. The point after attempt by David Martinez hit the post and bounced out, making it 6-0 Escalon with 9:35 to go in the second quarter. Three minutes later, Wesley Dick found the end zone after a 59-yard scamper and Mullen completed a 2-point conversion pass to Camarena for a 14-0 lead.
Liberty Ranch saw its next drive stalled on the interception by May and the teams again started to trade possessions, the host team going in at the half with the 14 point edge.
Second half action saw the Cougars wear down the visitors, adding another couple of scores, with a touchdown in the third on a 5-yard run by Javier Perez (kick good) and a fourth quarter score by Wesley Dick from a few yards out (kick failed) for the 27-0 final.
Any hope Liberty Ranch had of getting on the board was snuffed out when Puthoff went above the intended receiver to pull down the interception in the fourth quarter.
Team captains Mullen, Camarena, Perez and Roberson all agreed that staying focused, giving 110 percent and making sure the home team won for Homecoming was uppermost in their minds for the contest.
“It feels great and we really wanted to get that goose egg,” Camarena said of the defense wanting the shutout. “There was a lot more energy and it was phenomenal.”
Roberson, in his first game back after sitting out the last couple for medical reasons, said it was a satisfying return to the gridiron.
“It felt great, I was excited to be back,” he said.
Mullen was 6-for-10 for 76 yards, Dick rushed 16 times for 108 yards and Hunter Calton had nine carries for 57 yards, while Camarena had four rushes for 47 yards. Perez also ran well, said Loureiro, with the team getting “a little bit of everybody” involved for the win.
May, who had a couple of nice catches, went out late in the game with an injury and will be rested this week.
Escalon had 12 first downs, 230 rushing yards on 38 carries, 76 yards through the air on six completions. They were penalized two times for a total of 15 yards. Liberty Ranch had five first downs, rushed 33 times for 119 yards and had just four completions out of 13 attempts for 35 yards. They were penalized four times for 45 yards.
“It was a pretty clean game,” Loureiro said. “Once we got the lead, 14-0, we played a little conservative, we just held them.”
This week, the Cougars head off on a long road trip, going to Bear River and Lake of the Pines to take on the Bear River Bruins.
“They are in the Pioneer Valley League, with teams like Colfax and Placer, they are near Grass Valley, in the Auburn area,” Loureiro said. “We have never played them in football but they have a strong tradition, they are a real physical team and they are always in the playoffs.”
Co-coaches for the team are Terry Louge and Scott Savoie and the team is currently 2-1.
They are paced by running back Kyle Uclaray, running back/linebacker Dave Mastrella and fullback/inside linebacker John Voter. Quarterback is Jason Voter, top linemen are Kyle Krogman and Connor Hollister, leading receiver is Ryan Wagner.
“We’re 3-1 right now, pretty happy with where we are at this point,” Loureiro said of his varsity squad.
The Cougars will have their bye week on Oct. 3.
Friday’s game is currently on schedule, but officials said that could change depending on what happens this week with Northern California wildfires impacting the Auburn area.