Wrapping up a season where the team accomplished more than most people thought possible, Escalon varsity football head coach Mark Loureiro recently praised his players, their parents, his assistant coaches and the community for the continued support of the program.
A Sunday afternoon gathering at El Portal Middle School featured a tri-tip luncheon with salad, beans, potato salad, rolls, drinks and dessert, served up by a crew of parent volunteers. The coach thanked the parents for not only coordinating the Sunday festivities but also for providing dinners for the team, including the bag lunches, for players on the trip back from away games.
Following the feast, Loureiro reviewed the season, talked about the individual players on hand for the luncheon, and outlined the many accomplishments of the team, indicating that most believed this would be a rebuilding year and that wins would be hard to come by.
It was a year instead where the Cougars battled for the Trans-Valley League crown in the regular season finale, got to host – and win – a first round playoff game, and then finally ran into juggernaut Central Catholic to end the season one victory short of the Section finals.
“Football is such a demanding sport, it takes a lot of time and effort,” Loureiro told the assembled crowd on Sunday afternoon.
As he approached this season, he said, people told him this year’s team would have “too big a mountain to climb, too many big shoes to fill” but he said the players heard that talk as well and used it to drive them. They hit the weight room over the summer, pushed each other to work harder, be better.
The team started off the season against a very physical and talented Patterson team and took a 47-34 loss but regrouped, focused on defense and came away the next week with a 33-25 win against Calaveras. They strung together additional wins, 56-7 against Bret Harte and 27-0 against Liberty Ranch but lost multi-talented weapon Christian May in that game to a season-ending knee injury. They then had a long trip to Bear River and lost 14-7 to close out the preseason at 3-2.
From there, Loureiro said, it was time for some soul searching and finding a belief in themselves before league play began in the toughest small school league in the state.
Escalon got on a roll, with different heroes every game, different players stepping up, as they topped Hughson 35-20, beat Hilmar 41-34 to get coach Loureiro his Sac-Joaquin Section record-setting victory, 262, for the most wins all time. They blasted Riverbank 55-6 and came back to beat Ripon on a rainy Halloween night, 14-9. That sent them into the league final at 4-0 in the TVL, facing off with the 4-0 Modesto Christian Crusaders in Modesto. Escalon was in it early and battled until the fourth quarter, when a couple of late scores saw the Crusaders take a 30-14 win.
A fluke – in which none of five possible scenarios happened regarding multiple teams – in the final week of the regular season put Escalon into Division IV for the playoffs instead of Division V. They defeated Center of Sacramento in the first round, playing the game at home, winning 48-20 and then traveled to Modesto on Nov. 21 for what turned out to be their final game of the season, losing a 35-14 decision to Central Catholic.
The Cougars, in what was supposed to be a tough rebuilding year, went 8-4 overall, 4-1 in league and were ranked third in the district.
“You made believers out of everyone in the football world. It shows you what a group of fine young men can do when they all work toward a common goal,” Loureiro noted in the ‘coach’s thoughts’ portion of a commemorative program presented to each player on Sunday. “I thank you personally from the bottom of my heart for this great season. I couldn’t pick a finer group to share the section coaching record with.”
The 2014 team awards were: Garrett Nebe, most improved; Javier Lopez, most inspirational; Adam Roberson, most valuable lineman; Hunter Calton, most valuable back; Wes Dick, Caleb Mullen, outstanding offensive players; Brandon Grogan, Jesse Talamantes; coaches awards; A.J. Camarena, outstanding defensive player.
First team offensive players for the Trans-Valley League were Bo Capps, Logan Widmer, offensive line; Brandon Grogan, wide receiver; Wes Dick, Hunter Calton, running backs. First team defensive selections were: Adam Roberson, Matt Gallego, defensive line; Javier Perez, outside linebacker; A.J. Camarena, inside linebacker; David Martinez, defensive back. Roberson was also named the TVL Defensive Lineman of the Year.
Second team offensive selections were Blue Capps, offensive line; Caleb Mullen; quarterback and second team defensive selections were Garrett Nebe, defensive line; Chris Pilcher, outside linebacker; Travis Nascimento, inside linebacker.