That’s what the Cougars did on Friday night, as the varsity squad suited up for their final preseason game, traveling to face off with the Kimball Jaguars.
Last year, Kimball came in to Escalon in September and spoiled the Homecoming celebration, thumping the varsity squad in a 40-point victory.
But this time, it was the visiting Cougars who put the game in the win column, using a strong defense and the powerful running of Ryker Peters to capture a 30-22 victory.
The Cougars had a 7-0 lead after one, were up 14-7 at the half and the teams were knotted at 22-22 at the end of three quarters.
Kimball didn’t get its offense on the field for any significant time in the fourth quarter and Escalon put the final score into the end zone with 3:37 to go in the game, adding the two-point conversion for the win.
“It feels really good,” said junior Josh Graham, who got some key yards for Escalon on a couple of tough carries.
Graham was inserted for Peters in a couple of situations and said he knew he had to be ready.
“It’s that next man up mentality, I’ve got to step up,” Graham said. “It feels so good, with the varsity losing to Kimball last year and coming in here to avenge that loss.”
Several catches to extend drives and gain first down yardage kept receiver Owen Nash busy on the night as well.
“Amazing, incredible,” the senior captain said of the feeling after time ran out on the Jaguars. “We just came in here, we were the underdog, but this was a business trip and we took care of business. Just win, baby.”
Scoring all four touchdowns – and going well over the 200-yard mark rushing for the night, senior captain Ryker Peters again was quick to give credit to his teammates for creating the holes he can charge through.
“Win it for my team, win it for my team,” he said of the mantra he uses as he is punishing opposing defenses up the middle. “I don’t think about how many yards or how many touchdowns, I just want to win it for my team and I am nothing without them … revenge feels good.”
Quarterback Donovan Rozevink battled illness and a fever throughout the week, finally coming out of it in time to suit up to take the snaps and engineer some scoring drives on Friday.
“Now I feel great,” he said, pointing to the strong defensive effort as being key to the win. “They got the stop and the fumble recovery (on Kimball’s final possession) when we needed it.”
Head coach Andrew Beam said there were two key takeaways from the game.
“Number one, getting a little bit of redemption after giving up 54 points to them last year,” he said. “Number two, the defense gave up only 14 points … we had two interceptions in the first quarter and really took Kimball, a very powerful offensive team, out of their rhythm.”
Kimball, in fact, ran just one offensive play the entire second half. Their score in the second half came on a kickoff return in the third quarter and their chance with the ball in the fourth quarter ended with a fumble, recovered by Escalon.
Talan Reider was 2-for-2 in point after kicks and the Cougars had a pair of two-point conversions as well.
Beam said the entire offensive line and tight end Ryan Lewis played well, and he also was “super proud” of Graham’s two caries for 21 yards, noting that the junior “stepped up when we needed him” and kept drives alive.
Peters had 37 carries for 253 yards and four touchdowns. Rozevink was 7-for-11 for 72 yards; Nash caught five of those passes for 50 yards on the night.
Nate Krieger had a dozen tackles, Ayden Wilson and Nico Franzia had sacks, Javier Gutierrez and Matthew Baptista had interceptions while the fourth quarter fumble was forced by Derek Silva and recovered by Talan Reider to seal the win.
“Each team had three penalties and offensively, we had 346 yards and we ran 67 plays to their 37,” Beam said. “We just completed the toughest preseason Escalon has ever played and we went 3-1, we made it through that gauntlet.”
The only preseason loss was a one-point overtime loss to Buchanan.
Escalon now gears up for rival Hughson, welcoming the Huskies to Engel Field for the Friday night Homecoming contest, with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m.
Building up a 21-6 lead at the half, the Escalon JV Cougars kept the pressure on in the second half and came away with a 28-12 win on Friday night. They traveled to Kimball to take on the Jaguars in the final non-league contest of the season. Ben Gonzalez scored on a 12-yard run in the first quarter and Logan Huebner added the point after. Kimball answered but missed the extra point, so Escalon had a 7-6 lead. A 2-yard touchdown run by Kyrin Barajas and the extra point made it 14-6 in the second quarter, while Huebner fired a 5-yard pass to Gonzalez for a score and then kicked the point after to stake the JV team to the 21-6 lead. Kimball scored on a 32-yard rush in the third but Sam Jimenez intercepted the 2-point conversion attempt, the JV Cougars still leading 21-12. In the fourth quarter, Carson Medina picked off a Kimball pass and returned it 53 yards for the final touchdown of the night, the point after was good for the 28-12 win.
“We were happy to come away with a road victory against a large school, VOL opponent,” said head coach Brant Rose.
The coach noted that the defense played very well, with three secondary players – Chase Cummings, Sam Jimenez and Carson Medina – all getting interceptions. The defensive line created pressure for the Kimball team the entire game and had multiple sacks. The offense struggled a bit but still did enough to win.
“We hope that non-league schedule has prepared us well for the TVL gauntlet,” Rose said.
They welcome Hughson to Engel Field for a game on Friday night, Sept. 16.
Hosting Kimball on Thursday night, it was a tough 52-6 loss for Escalon’s freshmen.
“It was 30-6 at the half,” said head coach Joey Costa. “The lone score was a short Jeremy Grivette rushing touchdown. We went for two and didn’t convert. We just didn’t play well on either side of the ball in this game.”
With the lopsided score, Costa was able to get the seconds a lot of playing time, most of them in for the entire second half.
“Defensive standouts were Preston Sizuela, Lizandro Torres, Jesus Garcia and also Ernesto Gomez,” said Costa.
The team opens up league play on the road, at Hughson on Sept. 15.