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Shutout Win Over Central Propels Escalon To Next Round
It hadn't happened since 1991.

And, just like Friday night, the last time it happened it was also courtesy of the Cougars.

The Central Catholic Raiders were shut out by the host Escalon Cougars in Friday night football playoff action, a 28-0 victory that was as satisfying as Thursday's turkey dinner will likely be.

It was a complete game, all-cylinders firing dismantling of a powerhouse team that has had Escalon's number for the last several meetings.

This time, however, was different and Escalon moves on to host Colfax in the Division IV-B semifinal game on Nov. 26, while Central is done for the season.

"The last time they were shut out was 1991, and that was 47-0 by Escalon High School, I didn't even realize it," said coach Mark Loureiro, noting that coaches had to go to the record books to find the last time Central put nothing on the board but a goose egg.

"We would have taken a one-point victory," Loureiro admitted. "This was a big moment for Escalon football. It was the first time we've beaten them in a playoff game."

Rain held off in the first half, the drops starting to fall just as the second quarter was coming to an end. Once the third quarter started, the rain began coming harder and the entire second half was played out on an increasingly sloppy field.

But the Cougars had a 14-0 lead at half and mounted a huge four-down stand with Central knocking at the door with time running out in the first half, going into the locker room with momentum. They got the ball to start the second half and got a touchdown in the third quarter and a defensive score in the fourth to seal the win.

"I go back and look, the key play in that game was that defensive stand, they were at the 12-yard line," Loureiro said.

On four successive downs, Central tried to get into the end zone. On four successive attempts, the Cougar defense held, including a couple of batted down passes that seemed destined for Raider hands.

"If they scored there, they take the momentum at halftime and we're hanging our heads," Loureiro said.

Escalon won the toss and elected to kick off, giving Central the first possession of the night on Friday. Brandon Shaw sent a kick that put the receiver's back foot into the end zone for a touchback and the Raiders started at the 20. It was a short three and out, with Escalon taking the ball at the 10:33 mark of the first quarter. After a huge run by Adrian Cortes to get them started, quarterback Gino Franceschetti found Josh Miguel on the next play, good for a 33-yard touchdown strike. Franceschetti added the point after for a 7-0 Cougars lead with 9:37 left in the first.

In the second quarter, after the Cougars went for it on a fourth and 1 at the 36 but were held off by Central, the Raiders fumbled and Tony Vincent recovered to give Escalon the ball in good field position. On the next snap, James Hill was wide open over the middle with Central's defenders covering decoys, and Franceschetti found him for a 44-yard touchdown pass. The kick was good and it was 14-0 Cougars with 6:07 to go in the half.

After trading a couple more possessions, a Cougar bobble on a punt fell free and the Raiders recovered at the 12 with 1:20 to go. It was then the defense turned it up a notch, with the batted passes and a huge fourth down sack by Nate Caton keeping Central out of the end zone.

With rain starting to fall in the third quarter, Miguel turned a halfback counter into a 67-yard scoring run and with the extra point by Franceschetti, Escalon had a 21-0 lead with 6:04 left in the third.

"Josh had a big third quarter, for the game he had 17 carries for 170 yards but 120 of them came in the third quarter," noted Loureiro. "Adrian Cortes also had some huge carries, he was 16 for 79 and had his best game on defense."

When Miguel found the end zone and the skies continued to pour rain down, Loureiro said he started to realize the game was likely to go in the win column, as Central was battling the clock as well as the Cougars.

A 57-yard interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter by Shaw was the final blow of the night, finishing off the Raiders.

"To shut them out, that was not a thought in our heads," admitted Loureiro.

The front four on defense were able to get pressure on the quarterback, allowing seven to be covering other Raiders, taking away a good share of their passing game.

Loureiro pointed to the big three of Tony Vincent, Nate Caton and Shane Silveira, each with two sacks, as being key, along with solid games from Travis James and Daniel Alcantor.

Shaw had two interceptions, a touchdown and six tackles, Joey Ratto had six tackles to go along with several batted passes, and he held the Raiders' top receiver to one catch on the night.

Leading tacklers were Vincent, with seven tackles, two sacks and two fumble recoveries, with Silveira adding six tackles and two sacks. Victor Carrillo had six tackles and Caton added five tackles and two sacks.

Escalon had 10 first downs on the night to Central's six and the Cougars had 329 total yards, Central 163.

Central rushed 26 times for 105 yards, completed seven-of-28 pass attempts for 58 yards, fumbled five times and lost it twice, were penalized six times for 65 yards. Escalon had 41 rushing plays for 260 yards, completed 3-of-4 pass attempts for 69 yards, fumbled twice and lost it once and were penalized five times for 50 yards.

"This was a beautiful effort by the defense and the offense was running on all cylinders," Loureiro said. "Everyone played a part in this."

Junior quarterback Gino Franceschetti said the game couldn't have gone much better.

"The best experience of my life so far," he said of the win.

Caton agreed that the defensive stand at the 12-yard line was huge.

"It was very important, we didn't want them to score before half," Caton said, taking in the victory. "This is just a tremendous feeling."

Shaw, who got the final touchdown of the night, said all he could think about was getting to the end zone without dropping the ball when he picked off the pass, knowing the Raiders would be in hot pursuit.

"I can't even explain the feeling right now," he said, grinning as his teammates around him celebrated.

Miguel said it was crucial for the team to come out strong, as they were painted as the underdog.

"Unbelievable," he said. "We were ranked number one coming in, to say we're the underdog, that's a bad thing to say to us."

The Cougars went out to prove people wrong, and did just that, the 'underdog' coming away with a no-doubt-about-it win.

Travis James said the team was also happy to get the win in front of the hometown fans.

"I appreciate what the community does, how they support us," he said. "This feels great."