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Strong Offensive Push Lifts Varsity Football Past Windsor
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Junior Talan Reider looks up field after receiving the kick in action Friday night against the visiting Windsor Jaguars. Reider had a sack on defense and got a carry on offense as the Cougars took a 49-35 victory. Marg Jackson/the Times

With games pushed back a half hour in hopes of beating the heat, Escalon’s varsity football team took the field for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff Friday night.

The came away from the Sept. 2 contest against visiting Windsor with a 49-35 victory, getting back in the win column, and though weather turned out to be pretty much a non-factor, there was still an unusual feel in the air.

“It was a very strange dynamic,” admitted head coach Andrew Beam. “You would think, a back-and-forth battle like that, lots of points, lots of offense, there would have been more excitement.”

But the mood was a bit subdued, even though a large crowd turned out to support the team in the preseason contest.

“It was a win; a good win against a high-quality opponent and the offense looked good, clicking on all cylinders,” Beam pointed out. “But it’s a little hard to be excited when we give up that many points.”

It was, the coach added, the second week in a row that the Cougars have faced a very good quarterback, capable of threading the needle effectively to get through the secondary.

“I don’t know if we have seen back-to-back quarterbacks and receivers that good,” Beam explained. “Windsor was very fast, very well coached on offense.”

Both offenses seemed to hit their stride in the contest; both defenses had some struggles.

“It was the Wing-T ground game that they just couldn’t figure out,” Beam said of the visiting Jaguars. “The ground and pound; our defense they figured out, our offense they couldn’t.”

Escalon won the toss and deferred but they got on the board first, as quarterback Donovan Rozevink found Owen Nash – back from his suspension – for a 25-yard pass play in the first quarter. The point after was no good, but the Cougars had a 6-0 lead. It was a fumble recovery by Matthew Baptista near midfield that set up the score with 4:19 to play in the opening quarter.

Windsor took the lead with a touchdown and extra point before the end of the first, up 7-6.

The Cougars poured it on with four scores in the second quarter but Windsor worked hard to keep pace, finding the end zone a couple of times as well. Still, the home team left the field at halftime with a 35-21 edge.

Second quarter scores for the Cougars included an 8-yard touchdown reception by Nash and a 2-point conversion run in by Ryker Peters. Logan Anderson hauled in a 48-yard pass from Rozevink, kick good, and Peters then found the end zone on a 6-yard run, kick no good. Closing out the first half scoring was workhorse Peters once again, this time finding the seam and running it in from 28 yards out. Jamin Miller caught the pass, deflecting off his helmet, and went into the end zone for the 2-point conversion to push the Escalon score up to 35 points.

Windsor, with their two scores in the second quarter, went into the break with 21 on the board.

Both teams scored two more times in the second half, Escalon notching two touchdowns in the third quarter, Windsor getting one in the third and one in the fourth. A late fumble by the Cougars didn’t cost them, as time ran out on the visiting Jaguars before they could turn it into any more points.

Peters scored for Escalon in the third quarter on a 2-yard rush, kick good and he had the final touchdown of the night as well for the home team, scoring on a 25-yard run, with the kick good.

And even though Windsor continued to battle back, they couldn’t make up enough ground to take down the Cougars, who prevailed with the 49-35 verdict.

Some defensive highlights for Escalon included Talan Reider and Nate Krieger combining on a sack to stop a Windsor drive; Ayden Wilson and Nico Franzia also recorded sacks. Krieger paced the team in tackles with nine, Peters and Miller each added six.

Javier Gutierrez had an interception just before halftime that cut short a potential Jaguar scoring drive as well.

Returning after serving his suspension was Owen Nash, happy to contribute once again.

“It felt good to be back,” Nash said, adding that he was also proud of his teammates for the battle they gave Buchanan last week, coming up just short in overtime.

Looking ahead, he wants to improve his own game.

“I know what I need to work on and I’ve just got to come back better,” he said.

Having a solid game on both sides of the ball, Talan Reider made the most of his opportunities and is gearing up for a tough match this week, traveling to Kimball.

“Just practice hard, I guess,” he said, adding that he is hopeful they can put together a strong effort on the road.

Junior quarterback Donovan Rozevink – who was 9-for-15 for 146 yards and three touchdowns against Windsor – isn’t taking the next game lightly either, as he has a score to settle.

“I had five picks against them last year,” Rozevink said of wanting to have a better showing against Kimball in the rematch. “I want five touchdowns this time, a revenge game for sure.”

As far as defeating the Windsor Jaguars, Beam said it was once again Peters leading the way, with fellow senior Logan Anderson also contributing on all sides.

“The tear that Ryker Peters is on is truly impressive; this week he goes 21 carries for 202 yards and four touchdowns. He is the state’s number four overall rusher and is tied for number one in the state in touchdowns,” Beam explained. “Logan Anderson was once again our Mr. Utilityman, nine carries for 90 yards, four catches for 70 yards and a touchdown reception. And it was nice to have Owen Nash back, we saw glimpses of how special he can be on the outside, a big tall wide receiver.”

Once again, the Escalon offensive line did a tremendous job, Beam said. Those players include left tackle Jacob Rauch, left guard Tate Christensen, center Hunter Budd, right guard Anthony Jones and right tackle Ben Lora. Normal starting right tackle Gio Chavez was hurt early in the game, Lora called on to fill the slot as Chavez could not return.

“Gio is a two-year starting right tackle; Ben Lora came in played the whole game, he did a great job filling in,” Beam explained. “Ryan Lewis, our blocking tight end, has also done a great job so far this year.”

Lewis actually had a pair of touchdown receptions called back on penalties; catching two in a three-play sequence but not getting credit for either score.

“He had a little bit of bad luck with that, but they will come,” Beam said of Lewis getting into the end zone. “Donovan Rozevink made some good decisions; he had a better night at quarterback … there were a lot of highlights on offense.”

The defense did struggle some on Friday night but Beam said that’s not a cause for concern just yet.

“They were the main reason all of last year that we won,” he said of last year’s shutdown defense. “We are still working to figure out the defense but I have full faith with what we’ve got that we will figure it out pretty soon.”

Escalon will close out the preseason on Friday night, Sept. 9 on the road at Kimball.

“When we watched film on Saturday morning, this team is as good as any we have seen on offense and will be the best defensive team we’ve seen,” Beam admitted, noting it could be a “recipe for disaster” if the Cougars don’t come in focused and ready.

“In all honesty I don’t think it matters what we did the previous three weeks; this is a big game with major implications. This is a game where our defense is going to have to make some plays against some outstanding offensive players,” Beam said. “After that, we start Trans-Valley League play.”

The Cougars, 2-1 going into the preseason finale against the host Jaguars of Kimball, open the regular season by hosting Hughson on Sept. 16, which will be Homecoming Night as well.

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Cougar Jamin Miller works to make the initial stop here against the Windsor ball carrier as some teammates arrive to assist. Escalon hosted the Jaguars on Sept. 2 and put a 49-35 win on the books. Marg Jackson/The Times
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Leaping in the end zone, wide receiver Owen Nash, 13, at left and quarterback Donovan Rozevink celebrate a first half touchdown reception. The team wore special California National Guard uniforms for the game, the first team in the state to wear them. Marg Jackson/The Times