Escalon’s starting defense didn’t give up a score all night.
Liberty Ranch did find the end zone twice in the Friday night, Sept. 18 game at Galt High School, but one was against special teams on a punt return and one was in the final minute of the game, against the second defensive unit.
Otherwise, it was all Escalon, as the visiting Cougars took a 35-14 win off the field.
Head coach Mark Loureiro noted that the win resulted in a ‘first’ for the Cougars – as they grabbed their second win of the week. In a rare Monday night game, Sept. 14, they hosted Bret Harte and defeated the Bullfrogs, then were on the road on Friday and got the win over the Liberty Ranch squad.
“It was a tough bounce back on the kids and on us as coaches,” Loureiro said of the bookend games. “Tuesday, we ran and stretched, ran and stretched them to try and work some of that soreness out. We watched a lot of film, Wednesday we started to heat up a little and Thursday we worked on special teams.”
The game was played at Galt High School, as the Liberty Ranch football field is not yet complete.
“The kids responded well,” Loureiro added. “This was a good football win and they made us play four quarters but you could see that our offensive line took over.”
Escalon had 428 rushing yards, with O line players Daniel Gonzalez, Bo Capps, Blue Capps, Logan Widmer and Tim Wallace getting high marks from their coach for the work up front.
“Tyler Voral at tight end also did a nice job blocking, Sam Lattig did a great job blocking downfield that broke Hunter Calton for some big runs,” Loureiro said. “Hunter went off for us; he had 14 carries for 279 yards and three touchdowns.”
Escalon was both consistent and efficient, with single touchdowns in the first three quarters, two in the fourth. Liberty Ranch had a single touchdown in the second quarter and one in the fourth.
Hunter Calton got the Cougars on the board in the first quarter on a 59-yard run, with David Martinez adding the extra point for a 7-0 lead. Chris Pilcher converted on a 5-yard run in the second quarter; the kick was good for a 14-0 lead.
Liberty Ranch struck back, scoring on a 49-yard punt return and added the kick, going in at halftime down by just a 14-7 deficit.
“They came at us very well,” Loureiro said of the host team pushing the Cougars throughout the night. “But I just felt the physicality of our team on offense wore them down.”
Calton put Escalon back in the end zone on a 29-yard run in the third quarter with Martinez again adding the point after and it was Calton in the fourth, helping the Cougars open up a 28-7 lead with a 79-yard rumble and the kick by Martinez. Tim Costa then got a chance and converted on a 4-yard run to close out the Cougar scoring. Martinez added the kick and it was 35-7. Liberty Ranch kept pushing and got into the end zone one more time, on a 22-yard run late in the game for the 35-14 final.
While the offense was clicking, Loureiro said he also was pleased with the bounce back effort from his defense.
“I felt defensively we had played poorly against Bret Harte,” said Loureiro, pointing out that the solid effort against Liberty Ranch saw just the punt return score and the last minute TD for the host team.
“We also had a great sequence in the third quarter, a great stand on the goal line,” he said of the starting defense keeping Liberty Ranch in check. “Dakota Saing led us in tackles with nine; Logan Widmer had seven tackles and a fumble recovery.”
Cameron Puthoff had an interception, C.J. Gumbs added six tackles.
“They did an excellent job, as did Dustin Lawrence at inside linebacker and Trenton Busch on the inside. Off the bench, Chance Bollen on defense stepped in and played well.”
Quarterback Dylan Azevedo completed one of four passes, finding Dustin Lawrence on a 15-yard play. The Cougars had 443 total yards, 428 on 51 rushing plays. They had two penalties for 25 yards. Liberty Ranch had 213 total yards, 53 passing and 160 on the ground. They were penalized 10 times for 85 yards.
For his part, Puthoff said being a part of two wins in the same week is something he will always be proud of.
“I wouldn’t want to play for any other team,” he said, happy that his Friday interception put his team in good field position.
He also felt the defense performed solidly in the road game.
“Our line started pushing back, making them work,” he said.
Calton’s big night came after what he characterized as a “really bad game” on Monday against Bret Harte.
“It feels great,” he said. “It was nice to come back and answer with three touchdowns. And our O-line woke up tonight.”
Improving to 3-1 in preseason play, the Cougars face a big test this week: hosting Bear River – the defending Sac-Joaquin Section Division V champions – to cap off Homecoming Week. Varsity kickoff will be about 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 25.