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Varsity Cougars Roll In 54-0 Shutout Win Over Riverbank
Playing a day ahead of schedule, due to Friday's observance of Halloween, it was a different feeling for Thursday's varsity football game in Escalon.

The host Cougars had no trouble disposing of the visiting Riverbank Bruins, taking them down in a 54-0 contest, but the game was eerily silent, with a sparse crowd on hand.

Part of that was due to the day earlier schedule, part attributed to the bad weather - which saw a torrential downpour shortly before game time - and some of it was also due to the pregame supposition that it wouldn't really be much of a contest.

Leading 41-0 at the half, Escalon kept its game primarily on the ground, attempting only a few passes and grinding out the bulk of its yards on the sloppy turf.

Fans were sparse on the Riverbank side of the field, with more players and cheerleaders on the sideline than people cheering them on from the stands.

Escalon also had a small turnout, though the rain stopped just prior to kick off and didn't come back until late in the fourth quarter.

The good news for the Cougars was that seven different players got on the scoreboard and the second offensive and defensive units logged some valuable playing time.

"We knew going in they were going to be undermanned," head coach Mark Loureiro said of the visiting Bruins, who have folded up their JV team and moved those remaining players to the varsity level.

So Thursday night was also different in that the evening started with the varsity competition; there was no JV game. While not looking past the Bruins and the need for a solid effort, Loureiro said his team spent much of the week preparing for the Nov. 7 showdown with Modesto Christian.

They did focus on Riverbank on Thursday, though, and came away with the win.

"We tried to stay crisp," explained Loureiro. "Our job was to get a lot of kids in the game. Their kids (Riverbank) played hard, they were just undermanned."

Escalon kicked off to start the game but Riverbank went a quick three and out and, after blocking the punt, Escalon scored on its first possession, Izzy Ruiz breaking through on the first play from scrimmage from a yard out for the score. The kick by Jason Diniz was good and it was 7-0 Escalon with 9:34 to play in the first quarter.

Diniz added a 4-yard run late in the quarter, the point after was blocked, so the Cougars were up 13-0 after one.

They added four more touchdowns in the second quarter, opening up a commanding 41-0 lead by halftime.

Second quarter scores came from Charlie McDonald on an impressive 49-yard gallop in the muck, Diniz on a 14-yard run, Tyler Gonzales on a 3-yard run and Tyler Ellisen on a 7-yard run. Diniz added the point after each time.

"We got a lot of fresh faces in there, it was the first time for some of these guys to score a varsity touchdown and that was good to see," Loureiro said of some of the positive things about the game. "Tyler Ellisen, Tyler Gonzales, Michael Sage scored ... Phil Quiroz threw a touchdown pass to Tym Blair, Mac Heard has been injured all season, this was his first game back and he had three or four carries."

In the second half, the second units were used almost exclusively and the Cougars got their final two touchdowns in the third quarter. Blair pulled in a 28-yard pass from Quiroz with 8:40 to play, the kick was blocked, but it was 47-0 Escalon. Sage went in from 3-yards out for the final score of the night, the kick was good to make it a 54-0 final.

Officials used a running clock in the fourth quarter.

Escalon had 16 first downs on the night to Riverbank's three and the Cougars amassed 379 yards of offense, Riverbank had 41.

Rushing plays, Escalon ran 45 times for 350 yards and completed two of three passes for 29 yards. The Bruins rushed 31 times for 41 yards and had no completions on nine pass attempts.

There were three interceptions, however, with McDonald, Danny Thompson and Blair all pulling down a pick.

Escalon fumbled twice and lost it once, Riverbank had one fumble and lost it, covered by Josh Messersmith.

Travis Cardoza and Thomas Martin each recorded a sack, while Nick Largent was the team leader in tackles with nine, Martin added five.

"I was real happy, the secondary got three interceptions, we got a lot of kids involved," Loureiro said.

The win puts Escalon at 3-0 in Trans-Valley League play and sets up the showdown with Modesto Christian at Engel Field on Friday, Nov. 7.

Thursday's win over Riverbank was number 199 in Loureiro's coaching career; he will go after 200 against the Crusaders in a game that likely will decide the league title and the top seed for the playoffs.

Kickoff - with a packed house anticipated - will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday.