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Sweet Dreams Cougars Pounce On Tigers In 38-7 Gridiron Thrashing
Things didn't start out very promising for Escalon's varsity Cougars on Friday night ... but it got progressively better. And by the time it was over, the Patterson Tigers were shell-shocked and defeated, the host Cougars upending the visitors 38-7 in a football game for the ages, one that had head coach Mark Loureiro pinching himself at halftime to see if he was dreaming.

"In my 20 years here, that's got to rank up there in the top 10," an elated Loureiro said. "This is a major win for us, there was intense play from the start."

Loureiro said the way his Cougars played, it reminded him of a Section title win a few years ago over Hilmar at University of the Pacific, when his team shocked the favored Yellowjackets in a 23-0 rout. This one was nearly as satisfying.

"This is a sweet one," Loureiro agreed.

The Cougars received the ball and after a short three and out possession, it didn't look good. A short punt set the Tigers up near midfield and they were driving, but some strong defense led to a couple of incomplete passes and a field goal attempt that went wide right. Escalon took over at the 20-yard line with 7:57 to go in the opening quarter and went on a more than two-minute drive, capped by an Izzy Ruiz 1-yard run to pay dirt.

Along the way, the Cougars overcame a 15-yard personal foul, saw Ruiz go for a huge gain on a draw play up the middle and got a first down from Charlie McDonald, who somehow kept his feet going and stayed on them while being pursued by a host of Tigers.

After the Ruiz score, Jason Diniz capped the drive with the point after. Diniz also got the ball to the one on a nice run to set up Ruiz. Patterson took the kickoff and made some headway, only to be stopped on a Tyler Ellisen interception on a third and 11. Taking over at midfield, rushes by Ruiz and McDonald set up a 3-yard run by Diniz for the score. Adding the point after, it was 14-0 Cougars with 1:33 to go in the first quarter.

"Not a lot of people gave us a chance," Loureiro admitted of sending his young team against Patterson. "You would have thought with the practices we had Monday and Tuesday, we didn't, but we had good practices Wednesday and Thursday, we didn't come out flat at all. The kids were just focused."

Second quarter action saw the defense again doing the job, this time Mike Gutierrez pouncing on a loose ball on Patterson's next possession and getting the ball near midfield again for the Cougars. That was at 9:36 and just 18 seconds and two plays later, McDonald was in the end zone after a 29 yard run. The kick was good and it was 21-0 Escalon with 9:18 to go in the first half.

Patterson, blindsided by the Cougar intensity, couldn't do much offensively and had to punt the ball away again. Loureiro urged his troops to just get a couple of first downs on their next possession, working the clock. Runs by Ruiz and Diniz kept the Cougars moving forward and McDonald broke free from 21 yards out with 2:30 to play, Diniz added the kick and the home crowd voiced their approval of the 28-0 halftime lead.

"The defense did a tremendous job against a potent Patterson offense," Loureiro said. "Tyler Ellisen at outside linebacker had seven tackles and one interception, Nick Largent at inside linebacker had eight tackles."

Blake Nayer added seven tackles from his outside linebacker position, Gutierrez had four tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery and Danny Thompson had five tackles and one fumble recovery.

"The defense took over and provided the offense with opportunities," said Loureiro.

In the second half, the Cougars got a 20-yard run from McDonald and the kick from Diniz in the third quarter, going up 35-0 before Patterson put anything on the board. The Tigers did hit for a big pass play for the touchdown in the third and made the point after, avoiding the shutout. But the Cougars tacked on one more score in the fourth quarter, as Diniz hit a 30-yard field goal for the 38-7 final.

"A lot of kids played well," Loureiro said. "When you rush for over 400 yards, you know that offensive line is getting the push."

Those players included center Travis Cardoza, guards Gutierrez and Derrick DeFreitas and tackles Thomas Martin and J.D. Visser, and tight end Nayer. McDonald had 14 carries on the night for 157 yards and three touchdowns, Diniz had 14 carries for 142 yards and a touchdown, Ruiz had 12 carries for 88 yards and a touchdown. McDonald alone racked up more offensive yardage than the entire Patterson team.

"It's nice to be back," said McDonald, who did not play football his junior year. "Our goal was do as best we could (against the Tigers) ... it was amazing, there's nothing like it."

Gutierrez said the support from the crowd helped keep the Cougars energized all night.

"The people came in behind us, our sidelines, our fans, I was really nervous coming in but we were just going 100 percent all the time," Gutierrez said.

Senior Thompson agreed with Loureiro that early practices weren't good, but said they picked it up later in the week.

"We knew what we had to do," Thompson said. "This is for all the guys from last year, and for all those that said we couldn't do it."

The Cougars were knocked out of the playoffs in the semifinals last season by Patterson, which went on to lose to Central Catholic at UOP.

Nayer, also a senior, said they prepared for the passing game and worked hard to key on the big Patterson playmakers.

Junior Nick Largent said the team was united heading in.

"I just wanted to hit them as hard as I could ... I knew there would be 10 guys behind me doing the same," he said.

Thompson pulled in two passes on the night from quarterback Spencer Franceschetti, good for 40 yards.

"Both catches were on third downs and kept drives alive," Loureiro noted of the timely receptions.

Special teams also came up big for the Cougars in the win, with Diniz hitting all five extra points and notching the field goal and the Cougars successfully kicking off away from the speedy Patterson return men.

"Pleased, yeah; shocked, a little bit, still," Loureiro said after taking in the lopsided victory. "We showed what we could do, the seniors showed some great leadership ... our juniors matured. I'm real proud of the effort.

"They made a lot of old Cougars happy."