Emotions were running high – as senior cheerleaders and football players were recognized and honored for their contributions to the school prior to kickoff – but the end result was a satisfying shutout win in the regular season home finale for the varsity Cougars.
Host Escalon did get off to a slow start, scoring just one touchdown in the first quarter against Livingston, but finally found their groove and rolled to a 21-0 lead at the half, then poured it on with a three-score third quarter to put the game away.
“On our first drive, Colton Panero caught a 57-yard pass from Lucciano Dutra for the touchdown but the extra point was no good,” said head coach Andrew Beam.
That put Escalon up 6-0 and Livingston had plenty of fight in them early, helped out by an uncharacteristic lapse by the Cougars.
“We had a little bit of a lull in intensity,” Beam agreed of the rest of a lackluster opening quarter that saw the Cougars fail to get back in the end zone and provided some chances for the Wolves.
In the second quarter, Kaden Christensen went in on a 1-yard run, with the 2-point conversion successful, Dutra connecting with Alexis Jimenez to make it 14-0.
Adding the second score of the second quarter was Kaidence Trejo, pulling in a 28-yard touchdown pass.
“It was a really nice ball from Lucca on a post pattern,” Beam said.
With the point after from Jose Mendez, the Cougars went up 21-0.
Livingston had their best scoring chance of the game in the closing seconds of the first half, in the red zone for a handful of plays. Escalon’s defense, however, which has been stellar all season, got a stop on the 1-yard line as the first half clock expired, ending the scoring threat and maintaining the three-touchdown lead.
The visitors got the ball to start the second half but couldn’t do much with it, as Luke Anderson stopped their drive with a leaping grab for the interception, setting up a 19-yard touchdown pass from Dutra to Jimenez in the corner of the end zone.
While it looked like the pass might get picked off, Beam said it fell Escalon’s way.
“It bounced off the defender’s chest right into his hands,” the coach said of Jimenez coming down with the reception.
The kick was good and the Cougars were rolling, 28-0.
“I don’t know, I’m surprised myself,” an excited Jimenez said about how he managed the catch.
From there, Christensen found the end zone on a 7-yard run, kick good, to make it 35-0 and they closed out the scoring late in the third quarter on a 12-yard pass from Dutra to Trejo in the back of the end zone. The point after kick was good and the Cougars had a 42-0 lead.
The second unit saw some playing time with a running clock in the fourth quarter and did move the ball, though they were unable to get into the end zone. But the defense did keep the Wolves from scoring, and the home finale went in the books as a shutout win.
“Coming off a game (against Ripon) that was so emotional the week before, we feared the letdown and they did come out a little bit flat,” Beam explained. “But we bounced back with a good effort in the second and third quarters.”
There were plenty of notable performances, the coach added, including a monster night from senior quarterback Dutra, who completed 14-of-18 pass attempts for 220 yards and four touchdowns.
Trejo had seven catches for 106 yards and two touchdowns.
“Colton Panero and Kaden Christensen each caught a few passes, got some rushing yards and both found the end zone,” Beam said. “Other kids stepped up well whenever their number was called.”
Escalon also won the turnover battle.
“We forced four turnovers, Christensen had two interceptions, Luke Anderson had an interception and Jacob Walden had a fumble recovery,” Beam said.
Again the defense was outstanding, Walden with one-and-a-half sacks, Damien Tom, David Camacho and Mikey Carroll each with a half sack. Nash Satnat had eight tackles.
“I think with our second touchdown, we just sort of manhandled them and punched it in,” said Christensen, who was part of that scoring drive. “We were real sloppy to start, coming off that big win last week but once we found our groove, we did good.”
The junior is also looking forward to the regular season finale, a road game at Hughson.
“That’s a long time rival … it’ll be chippy; it will be a tough dog fight,” he said. “We’ve just got to have our heads on straight.”
Senior Devin Roberson said the team wanted to give their fans a victory in the home finale and now they can focus on getting one more league win.
“I think it just began with the win last week,” he said of defeating Ripon at the Oct. 12 Homecoming and keeping the momentum going.
Even after the slow start against Livingston, he said the team just kept working.
“There was not any certain point,” he said of turning it around on Friday night after the sluggish first quarter. “We just got on to each other.”
That proved to work, as the team stepped it up and kept the Wolves at bay the rest of the way.
Escalon had 220 passing yards and 34 rushing plays for 162 yards on Friday night while Livingston had 80 yards passing and 22 rushing plays for 79 yards. The game saw just three penalties for Escalon, six for Livingston.
Hughson is the destination on Friday night, Oct. 26 as the Cougars look to close out the regular season with a win.
“Our defense has been outstanding all year long and that will be a key to get past Hughson and to do well in the playoffs,” Beam said. “Hughson is playing for a playoff spot and they still look at this as a rivalry game; we’re playing for a top four seed but on their Senior Night, they’re going to give us their best shot. It’s important that we find the energy and emotion, keep it rolling.”