In a reversal from their other game this season – a high-scoring game with Oakdale that ended in a loss – the Escalon varsity Cougars football team held off Ripon in a 10-7 final on Saturday night, April 10.
The game was played on Saturday since that was the date previously quarantined Ripon players could suit up.
Escalon had also been quarantined, earlier than Ripon, but was able to reschedule the game for Saturday to take on rival Ripon in the much-anticipated rematch. The last meeting of these two teams was on Oct. 18, 2019 – in Ripon – and was a 42-21 win for the Indians. Escalon took an early 14-0 lead in that game but ultimately lost. It was the only blemish on their record that season, as they went on to claim the state Division 4A championship and ended with a 14-1 record. Ripon, meanwhile, was the state Division 4AA champion that year so the Saturday night game was a battle of defending state champions.
For the Cougars, there was extra motivation, looking for some revenge for the loss they suffered the last time around.
Still, the 10-7 final was a bit surprising to many in attendance, expecting more of an offensive showcase.
“It was the polar opposite (of the game with Oakdale), our offense and defense switched places,” said head coach Andrew Beam. “Hats off to the defense and coach (Brandon) Hoover, we held them to 192 total yards on the night and gave up just seven points in the second quarter.”
The defense also had three interceptions on the night, two by sophomore Matthew Baptista and one on Ripon’s final drive in the fourth quarter by Tyler Medina that sealed the victory.
“We also had a big goal line stand early in the fourth that likely was the difference in the game,” Beam noted of the Cougars working to stuff the Indians just a couple of yards from the goal line and get the turnover on downs.
That series also included a huge tackle by Eli Lattig to stop a touchdown and keep the Cougars in front.
“On offense, we were our own worst enemy,” added the coach. “We had four first down penalties that put us at first and 15 or first and 20.”
Escalon did get a first quarter touchdown on a five-yard run from Luke Anderson and the point after from Brayan Barrientos to go up 7-0. Helping set up the run was a 57-yard catch and run by Owen Nash, breaking a tackle to go down the sideline and get the Cougars into the red zone.
In the second quarter, the Cougars were victimized by a bad bounce on a punt that hit a player and was recovered by Ripon to set up the only score of the night for the Indians, going in from nine yards out and adding the extra point to tie it up 7-7.
Escalon looked to take the lead going into the locker room but was stymied, leaving with the tie at the half.
“That kind of took the wind out of our sails,” Beam admitted of the late second quarter failure to score. “But we told them at halftime that this was what we expected, a rivalry game, and we were going to find out how mentally tough they were in that second half.”
It was in the second half that the defense really came alive and special teams got the go ahead touchdown, with a 33-yard field goal from Barrientos in the third quarter making it 10-7.
“The game had a weird vibe to it all the way through,” Beam said of the unusual Saturday night scenario, with limited fans in the stands due to the COVID-19 protocols.
And despite committing 12 penalties for 110 yards, the Cougars were able to hang on.
“It was by far one of our sloppiest games,” Beam pointed out. “And on the last play there were four personal fouls, two on each team, there were just a lot of emotions at the end of the game.”
Ripon had 56 yards passing and 136 yards rushing, with 10 penalties for 58 yards. Escalon had 198 passing yards and 177 rushing yards, with the 12 penalties for 110 yards.
Quarterback Ty Harris was just 9-for-21 but made some big throws for 198 yards. Owen Nash had six catches for 173 yards; also pulling in passes were Logan Webster, EJ Lewis and Eli Lattig. Luke Anderson had 18 carries for 135 yards and the lone touchdown for the Cougars.
“One of his runs in the fourth quarter, he just got outside and took the cornerback down the field 21 yards with a stiff arm, then just threw him down with one hand,” Beam said.
Escalon improved to 1-1 on the shortened season with the win and are scheduled to host Sierra of Manteca in a 7 p.m. contest, with the JV hosting Lathrop at 5 p.m. on Friday, April 16.
The Escalon freshmen also have a Thursday game scheduled this week, taking on Downey at 7 p.m. at Engel Field on April 15.