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Varsity Cougars Prove Too Powerful For Bullfrogs
The score was higher than the temperature.

By the time Friday night's final non-league game was over, the Escalon varsity Cougars had racked up 56 points in their contest with Bret Harte ... and the temperature in Angels Camp had dipped to 44 degrees.

Escalon put an exclamation point on a perfect preseason, scoring on the ground and through the air in an all around stellar effort, shutting out the host Bullfrogs 56-0.

"Our kids tend to always play well against Bret Harte," admitted head coach Mark Loureiro.

And despite the 56 points, Loureiro said it was the defense that came up big on Friday night.

"I thought they got after it defensively from the get go," he explained. "We held them to three first downs overall, 10 total yards the whole night.

"We had six sacks, forced three turnovers, caused numerous other fumbles."

Leading the way on defense was Thomas Martin, seven tackles and three sacks, Nick Largent with nine tackles, Blake Nayer with six, while Travis Cardoza and Ramon Ramos each recorded a sack.

For Escalon, all the weapons were firing on this night. The entire first half was played on one side of the field, as Jason Diniz continued to pump kickoffs into the end zone, putting Bret Harte at the 20-yard line to start their drives. The Bullfrogs never made any headway, almost always going three and out and punting, or losing the ball on a fumble or interception to stop a drive and give the ball back to the Cougars.

"We had two interceptions, one by Izzy Ruiz and one by Danny Thompson that he ran in for a touchdown in the second quarter," Loureiro said.

Jason Johnstad got high marks for his work on the defensive line, while Mike Gutierrez and Tyler Ellisen also put together solid efforts for the varsity squad.

"We were three steps faster," Loureiro said of making the plays while Bret Harte couldn't. "It all goes back to that Buhach Colony game, when we had 84 plays on defense, all the benefits from that night are showing, we're playing the game at a faster speed than our opponents."

Escalon kicked off to Bret Harte to start the contest but didn't make much headway, having to punt it away. On their first possession, the Cougars went for it on a fourth and five at the 33-yard line and Charlie McDonald powered his way forward for the first down. From there, the Cougars marched it in, Ruiz scoring the first touchdown of the night from 2 yards out with 5:42 to go in the first quarter. Diniz added the extra point to make it 7-0. Diniz then kicked it off into the end zone, setting up the Bullfrogs at the 20-yard line and they fumbled the ball on their first play, with Escalon recovering. McDonald got the call a couple of plays later and scored from 20 yards out, the kick was good and with 5:20 to go in the first, it was 14-0.

A sack and an interception by Ruiz on Bret Harte's next possession gave the Cougars the ball once again.

Second quarter scoring by Escalon included a 9-yard touchdown pass from Spencer Franceschetti to McDonald, with the kick good for a 21-0 lead. Bret Harte picked up a first down on their next possession but never got close to scoring, punting the ball away. A nice return by Thompson set up the Cougars for a drive and they got in position for a field goal try. The snap was high and holder Thompson grabbed the ball, eluded the rush and found teammate Nayer in the end zone, heaving the throw from 31 yards out for the touchdown. The kick by Diniz was good and it was 28-0 with 5:08 to play in the first half.

Bret Harte had another turnover their next possession, with Thompson getting his interception and running it in from 24 yards out for the score with 4:18 to play. The kick was good for a 35-0 lead. One final touchdown came in the first half, Franceschetti linking up with Diniz on a 38-yard pass play with a minute left. The kick was good to make it 42-0 at the half.

"Offensively, we missed some assignments," Loureiro admitted. "They really keyed on Charlie and Jason and Spencer did a great job, he threw for three touchdowns, two to Jason Diniz and one to Charlie McDonald, even his misses were just barely missed."

Loureiro said that even though the Bullfrogs worked hard to take away the running weapons, Escalon had more weapons in store, the arm and accuracy of Franceschetti. The defense also made it tough for the Bret Harte team to get any sustained drives going.

"They didn't get across the 50-yard line the whole first half," Loureiro noted. "We played on their field, we were right on top of them ... our defense sets up the offense."

Up 42-0 at the half, Loureiro started subbing in the second string players as the second half unfolded. He admitted it was a tough spot, wanting to give his starters plenty of work in their final tune up before league, but also wanting the back ups to get fully prepared as well.

"It was great to see that second group come in," Loureiro said of them getting involved in the scoring and keeping Bret Harte out of the end zone. Diniz pulled in a 20-yard pass for an Escalon touchdown in the third quarter and Colin Keener capped the scoring with a 70-yard run in the fourth quarter. Diniz added the extra point on each for the 56-0 final.

"Colin was chugging away, he made it," Loureiro said of the junior finding plenty of open field and hitting pay dirt. "It was great to see that, he was happy to get his first varsity touchdown."

For the game, Bret Harte had three first downs and Escalon 15, with total yards 10 for the Bullfrogs and 393 for Escalon. Bret Harte rushed 28 times for minus seven yards, Escalon 46 carries for 285 yards. The Bullfrogs had 2-of-9 pass completions for 17 yards and two interceptions, Escalon completed 6-of-8 pass attempts for 108 yards and had no interceptions. Both teams were penalized twice, for 15 yards, Bret Harte fumbled three times and lost it twice, Escalon had two fumbles and lost them both.

The Cougars were never seriously challenged by the Bullfrogs, who fell to 2-3 in their preseason campaign. Loureiro said his team was just too strong, in too many different areas, for the Bret Harte team to contain.

With McDonald and Diniz emerging as the premier ball carriers, Loureiro said Bret Harte had guys swarming to them.

"That's when the other weapons step up," he said of brining in the passing game. "They can't take everything away."

The Cougars closed out preseason at 5-0 and now start the tough Trans-Valley League grind. They will be on the road to start, playing against Ripon Christian at Ripon High on Saturday night, Oct. 18. They play at Hughson on Oct. 24, host Riverbank on Thursday, Oct. 30, then close out the season with games at home against Modesto Christian on Nov. 7 and Ripon on Nov. 14.