It was really a tale of two halves. Tied 7-7 at the break, the Escalon varsity football Cougars responded to some halftime motivational talk from their head coach and came out more determined in the second half. They used that focus and energy to defeat host Calaveras, 24-7, on Friday night, Aug. 30.
“It was a strange game,” admitted head coach Andrew Beam. “It was very physical, very tough; I think it took our kids a little bit of time to respond.”
It also was hard to get into the flow of the game, as there were plenty of penalties assessed, especially in the first half, when the Cougars gave up 80 yards in penalties alone. They had 10 penalties for 100 yards in the game, Calaveras had six for 49.
“We just had to overcome adversity,” agreed senior guard/linebacker Roman Gonzalez of dealing with the penalties. “We can’t let that get in our head. We came out with the aggressiveness in the second half, we knew we had to man up and be the more physical team.”
Escalon did start out well, scoring on their first drive of the game, on a 13-yard touchdown pass to Colton Panero from Ty Harris, the extra point was good by Brayan Barrientos for a 7-0 lead. Calaveras responded with a touchdown in the second quarter, helped out by a roughing the kicker penalty that gave them new life.
The Cougars got the ball to start the second half, having deferred after winning the coin toss, and used a 12-play, 76-yard drive to go up 14-7. Kaden Christensen took the ball in for the score and the Cougars added another touchdown in the third, when Kaidence Trejo leaped up and over a Calaveras defender in the end zone to come away with the catch.
“It was a jump ball and Kaidence just made an outstanding catch,” Beam said of Trejo grabbing the 32-yard pass from Harris. The extra point again was good for a 21-7 lead after three quarters.
The final score of the night came on a 25-yard field goal from Barrientos to cap a Cougar drive, putting the game out of reach as time wound down.
“They’re a really physical team,” said junior Luke Anderson, who rushed the ball 16 times against Calaveras for 79 tough yards. “But our offensive line got a good push in the second half and we got into their secondary. Coach Beam was pretty motivational at halftime.”
Escalon ended the game with 411 total yards to 161 for Calaveras. Harris was 8-for-17 with 106 yards and two touchdown passes. Christensen rushed nine times for 117 yards and a touchdown, Panero had 10 rushes for 63 yards and also had a reception for a touchdown. Trejo had four catches for 59 yards and a touchdown.
“It was a tale of two halves, they had 24 rushing yards in the second half, we had 231,” noted Beam of getting the edge on Calaveras.
Defensively, the Cougars were paced by David Camacho with 10 tackles, Damien Tom and Jacob Walden had eight each, Panero had seven and Anderson added six.
“We knew we were more physical than them, we just had to come out and show it,” Christensen said of making halftime adjustments. “The penalties in the first half slowed things down and long drives wore on both of us, but in the second half we made a statement from the get go and we stayed on the gas until the end of the game.”
Now 2-0, the varsity Cougars will welcome the Sonora Wildcats in on Friday night, Sept. 6.
“That will be physical, some old-fashioned smash mouth football,” Beam said.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.