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Expect a packed house ... and you'd better get there early.

Escalon, coming off a last-minute victory over Calaveras in the first round of the playoffs, heads into its toughest test yet as they play host to the Central Catholic Raiders on Friday night, Nov. 28.

Engel Field at Memorial Stadium will be the venue, with the 10-1 Raiders coming in to battle the 11-0 Cougars for the right to advance to the Sac-Joaquin Section Championship on Saturday, Dec. 6 at UOP.

First place finishers in the WAC, Western Athletic Conference, the Raiders were undefeated in league play, as were the Cougars in the Trans-Valley League. Central's only loss came in their first game of the season, a non-league loss to Cardinal Newman.

They handled Summerville, 27-8, in their opening round playoff game on Nov. 21.

Wearing Navy blue and Vegas gold, the Raiders are under the direction of first-year coach Roger Canepa, who previously coached for many years at Calaveras.

"They have a tremendous football tradition, they have won more section championships than any team in the section," noted Escalon head coach Mark Loureiro, who is good friends with Canepa. "This by far will be our biggest test."

The Raiders, winners of the Section crown last season, also made it to the state's small schools title game and are one of the favorites to return to that contest.

Central Catholic is keyed by the offensive efforts of running back T.J. Belton, 5-11, 175 and are brought to the line by junior quarterback Dylan Swartz, 6-3, 190. Leading receivers are James Orth, 6-3, 195 and David Biscevic, 6-3, 175. Other key players are sophomore running back/linebacker Billy Flamion, 6-1, 170 and top lineman is Matt Galas, 6-2, 270.

"They have tremendous size on both sides of the ball," Loureiro said. "They do a tremendous job on defense, they are very well coached, they never beat themselves."

Gates will open at 6 p.m. for the Friday night contest, with kickoff at 7:30 p.m.

"It's going to be an unbelievable, crazy atmosphere," Loureiro admitted. "This is a tremendous match up, a battle of two heavyweights."

The winner on Friday night advances to the title game against the winner of the Hilmar-Patterson contest. Hilmar put away Modesto Christian 55-14 in the first round while Patterson got past Argonaut by a 24-21 decision in overtime.

"I feel like we're the underdog," Loureiro admitted of Friday night's contest, even though the game is on the Cougars' home field. "There's been a lot of magic happening in that stadium this year ... but we'll have to play our best game."