Los Banos was just a couple of points better in the first and third quarters – but it was enough to walk off Engel Field with a 16-12 win over the host JV Cougars on Friday night.
The teams traded scoring drives in the first quarter and again in the third, with the visiting team adding the 2-point conversion each time.
“We scored first, then they ran the kickoff back for a touchdown,” said head JV coach Randy Northcutt.
Escalon struck first, with David Martinez finding the end zone at the end of a 19-yard run. The point after kick was blocked so the young Cougars had to settle for a 6-point lead. It was very short-lived, though, with the TD on the return, on a run that saw the Los Banos player evade tacklers and churn up about 70 yards of real estate.
In the third quarter, Los Banos scored and got the 2-point conversion to go up 16-6, with the Cougars then answering back with a 4-yard run by Dustin Lawrence. The 2-point conversion failed and it was 16-12. Neither team would score again and the visitors took the win.
For Escalon, quarterback Dylan Azevedo was 2-for-6 for 30 yards, both passes pulled in by Hunter Calton.
Rushing, the JV team was paced by workhorse Lawrence, 26 carries for 108 yards and a touchdown. Martinez had six carries for 20 yards and a score. The Cougars had a total of 165 yards of offense, Los Banos had 158.
“Defensively, we got good games out of Trenton Busch, Chris Pilcher, Martinez, Lawrence,” said Northcutt. “Busch and Pilcher had one sack each.”
Logan Widmer had a fumble recovery and Andrew Gastello had an interception.
“We’re very young,” Northcutt said of his team. “We have just three returners from last year, we have four freshmen up, our starting quarterback is a freshman.”
Overall, the coach said, the team showed some signs of promise, but shot themselves in the foot just too many times to recover.
“We had some blown coverages, back to back holding calls, missed blocks,” he said. “It’ll be tough for a while.”
The road doesn’t get easier, as the squad travels to face off with highly regarded Pacheco in Los Banos on Friday, Sept. 6.
“I don’t want to take anything away from Los Banos, they were a good team,” Northcutt added of their season-opening opponent.
He feels the young team will improve with time and more game experience, and said the goal of a tough preseason schedule is to get them ready for Trans-Valley League play.