It was playoff football Friday night in Escalon, the No. 5 seed Cougars making the most out of their first-round game, knocking out Pacheco with a decisive 55-0 victory.
“Defense wins championships,” head coach Andrew Beam said, noting that the Cougar defense came through against Pacheco, with eight total turnovers – five interceptions and three fumble recoveries.
Talan Reider had two interceptions – one a pick six – Logan Anderson, Sawyer Mello and JV call up Carson Medina each had one. Mello’s was a pick six and Medina’s came on the final play of the game as Pacheco was trying to get into the end zone and avoid the shutout.
But it was all Escalon on Friday night, as they roared out to a 35-0 first quarter lead and were never challenged by the visitors in the Division 5 opener.
“It felt awesome, exciting, it was a good win,” Reider said. “It all just clicked together.”
Nate Krieger, Luke Maxwell and Anderson had the fumble recoveries, and it always seemed like the No. 12 seed Pacheco could only get a couple of offensive plays on the board before they turned the ball over.
“I think that we were ready; we have been ready, we have had this different feeling or energy about us this last five or six weeks,” Beam said. “I thought if we could get on these guys early we would win but did I think it would be 55-0? No.”
But, the head coach and his staff will take it, Beam especially offering kudos to the defensive coaches who have prepared the Cougars well for the playoffs.
With some players brought up for the playoff run, Beam said the team had 50 guys suit up on Friday night and everyone got in to play.
The Cougars also scored multiple ways; on the run, through the air and on defense.
Touchdowns were spread around, and starting quarterback Donovan Rozevink gave way in the second half to back-up Jagger Scott and freshman Logan Huebner, both getting some snaps and running some plays.
“They are pretty one dimensional, they hadn’t thrown very much all season long,” Beam added of Pacheco. “We stacked the box and dared them to throw the football, when they did you could see they were ill prepared for that.”
Offensively for Escalon, Owen Nash was the leading receiver, five catches for 67 yards and a touchdown; Logan Anderson had five carries for 86 yards and a touchdown. Josh Graham had seven carries for 72 yards, Ryker Peters had seven carries for 66 yards and a touchdown.
Rozevink was 5-for-7 for 67 yards, all the passes going to Nash, one for a touchdown while Scott was 2-for-3 for 21 yards and a touchdown pass, connecting with Sawyer Mello for that score.
First quarter scoring was Rozevink pass to Nash, 22 yards; Logan Anderson, 20 yard run; Matthew Baptista, 3-yard run; Jamin Miller, 24-yard run; Talan Reider, pick-six.
In the second quarter, Ryker Peters got into the end zone on a 2-yard run to give Escalon a 42-0 lead over the Panthers.
In the third quarter, Sawyer Mello caught a 10-yard pass from Jagger Scott for the touchdown and the final score came in the fourth quarter, on a pick-six 50-yard touchdown run by Mello.
“It felt good, I love carrying the ball and playing defense,” Mello said of his busy night.
He also feels as though the Cougars are ready for the next contest, when they head to Hilmar on Nov. 11 for a second-round game.
“It’s a rivalry game, a revenge game,” he said.
Maxwell was another busy player, making the most of his minutes on the field.
“It was awesome, I really loved it, the whole team was having a blast,” Maxwell said. “I like flying to the ball and hitting someone … I feel good, I really just want to win, now I just want to get Hilmar back.”
Reider hit all seven of his point after attempts; freshman Huebner lined up for the kick after the final score but missed.
“We didn’t realize he was a lefty,” Beam said of setting up incorrectly for the snap. “We can’t put that on him.”
Senior captain Owen Nash said the team was prepared for a tough game and they need to stay focused, taking each opponent one at a time.
“I thought it was going to be a fight and that’s what we were prepared for, it was just fun jumping up them, clicking, getting up early,” Nash said. “We had some balls come our way, some snaps on their part, some fumbles and we were able to capitalize on that.”
He is among the Cougars looking forward to playing Hilmar once again.
“Biggest game of the year,” Nash said of the showdown with the Yellowjackets, after the Cougars lost a league contest by one point during the regular season. “Since then, it’s been all gas, no brakes.”
Leading tacklers on defense against Pacheco were Mello and Miller with four tackles each, and several players added one or two to the overall total.
Beam said while it was nice to enjoy the first-round win on Friday, there wasn’t much time to savor it.
“Hilmar … we get our rematch and that’s all we could have asked for, six to seven weeks ago, it was a game we let get away from us and the only way to get rid of that feeling is to play them again,” Beam said.
Escalon entered the Division 5 playoffs as the No. 5 seed. Hilmar, at No. 4, got a first-round bye and the teams will meet this week in Hilmar with a 7 p.m. kickoff on Friday night, Nov. 11. Carpooling for fans is advised.
“We’ve got some guys healthy, we’re in a good head space, I think our guys are very focused right now,” Beam said. “This team is hungry; we have a lot to prove.”