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Varsity Cougars Spoil Thunder's Homecoming Party
Just looking at the statistics, you would expect a grim outcome.

Time of possession, 37 minutes for Buhach Colony, 11 minutes for Escalon.

Buhach Colony, 31 first downs and Escalon, 11. Offensive plays, Buhach Colony 84, Escalon 27.

"If you saw those numbers, you wouldn't think we won," said Escalon head coach Mark Loureiro, whose varsity football team came away from Buhach Colony's Homecoming with a win in hand, defeating the Division I Thunder by a 47-35 final.

"They had more first downs than we ran offensive plays," Loureiro said, still astounded at the lopsided statistics, which belied the final score. "When this is all said and done, these are statistics you will never see again."

Escalon may not have had that many offensive plays, but they got the big ones when they counted.

Like an 86-yard touchdown run from Charlie McDonald, the second half opening kickoff returned 84 yards for a touchdown by Danny Thompson, a 55-yard touchdown run by Izzy Ruiz. Big plays all night long kept the Cougar faithful riveted to the game and entertained well beyond the price of admission.

"They (Buhach) consumed time on their drives but we were able to strike back and score quickly," Loureiro said. "There were also four turnovers, we got one interception and recovered three fumbles, those were all big plays."

Buhach Colony even had the game ball delivered via parachutist to start the Homecoming game off with a splash and though the Thunder controlled the clock and pretty much dictated the tempo of the game, the Cougars came out on top.

Each team scored in every quarter, with Escalon leading 14-6 after one, 28-14 at the half. They made it 35-14 with Thompson's second half kickoff return, but the Thunder got back into it with a pair of scores in the third, trimming the lead to 35-27. Escalon got two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter; Buhach had one for the 47-35 final.

Buhach Colony got the ball to start the game and scored on their first possession, ending with a 14-yard pass play. The 2-point conversion failed but with 7:53 to play in the opening quarter, the Thunder had a 6-0 lead.

It was a short-lived lead, as Jason Diniz had a couple of strong rushing plays on the Cougars' first possession of the night and then Charlie McDonald broke free for the 65-yard gallop to the end zone. The kick by Diniz was good and the Cougars had a 7-6 lead.

A fumble recovery by Nick Largent on the Thunder's next possession set up a 14-yard run by Izzy Ruiz for a score on the final play of the first quarter. The kick was good for a 14-6 lead.

Buhach tied it up, 14-14, on a quarterback keeper at 5:15 of the second quarter, adding the 2-point conversion.

The teams kept trading scores, though Buhach's typically came after a long possession and Escalon's were quick ones.

"This was a tremendously entertaining ball game for the fans to see, a lot of offensive points scored, playing a larger school at their Homecoming and all that," Loureiro said.

After Buhach tied the score, Escalon took the kickoff and Diniz returned it to the 30-yard line. McDonald got the call next and gained 15 yards to the 45, with Ruiz breaking free on the next play for a 55-yard touchdown run to give the lead back to the Cougars in a hurry. The kick was good and it was 21-14 Escalon, less than 30 seconds after Buhach had tied the score.

Hoping to go into halftime tied, Buhach was driving again when Largent intercepted a pass to stall the drive.

"We're going for all the marbles," Loureiro said on the sidelines as he sent in the pass play to quarterback Spencer Franceschetti, who hooked up with Thompson on a 42-yard pass play, the only completed pass of the night for Escalon. That put them in range and McDonald scored from 13 yards out on the next play, the kick was good and it was 28-14 Escalon with 2:05 to go in the first half.

Buhach scrambled in the final two minutes trying to get back on the board, but a batted down pass by Tyler Ellisen and a fumble recovery by Mike Gutierrez cut the drive short.

Eight seconds into the second half, the Cougars extended their lead to 35-14, with Thompson returning the kickoff 84 yards for the score. Diniz added the point after.

A sustained Thunder drive followed, capped by a 1-yard run and the kick, making it 35-21 at the 5:35 mark. Buhach then went for the onside kick and recovered it, and took nearly the rest of the third quarter to go in for the score. The kick was no good but suddenly, the big lead was gone and it was 35-27 Escalon.

The kickoff by Buhach was a short squib kick, but Largent pounced on it and the Cougars went on a drive that ended with 7:32 to go in the fourth, with Ruiz going in from a yard out. The kick was blocked but the visitors had some breathing room at 41-27. Buhach's next drive was again stalled by a turnover and also featured a huge sack by Gutierrez. He also got the fumble recovery with less than four minutes to go in the game.

McDonald found the end zone after an 86-yard run and, on a bad snap for the point after, Thompson took it and found Thomas Martin in the end zone for the conversion - but it was disallowed since Martin was not an eligible receiver. Still, it was 47-27 with 3:06 to go.

With 36 seconds to play, Buhach cut the deficit on a keeper and the 2-point conversion, making it 47-35. The onside kick was covered by Escalon and they took the snap and the knee, sealing the win.

"If you look at the statistics, I don't think you'll ever see anything like that in the history of football," Loureiro reiterated. "We scored so fast."

The Cougar defense was on the field virtually all night but continued to make things happen, with the interception, fumble recoveries, and batted down passes.

Loureiro told his team in the post game huddle that, even though not everybody got in the game, the back up crew should feel good that the work they did during the week to prepare the starters for battle was well worth the time and effort they put in.

"You make this team stronger," he told them.

McDonald had eight carries for 213 yards and three touchdowns, Ruiz had 13 carries for 110 yards and three touchdowns. Thompson had a kickoff return for 84 yards and the score, he also had the 42-yard pass reception that set up a touchdown.

High praise went to the offensive line of Travis Cardoza, Derrick DeFreitas, Mike Gutierrez, J.D. Visser and Thomas Martin for their work, controlling the inside and opening up the running lanes.

"Defensively, Largent had a monster night," Loureiro added. "He had 17 tackles, a fumble recovery, an interception ... those are major numbers."

Martin had 11 tackles and three batted passes, Thompson had 11 tackles and held the leading receiver in the district to just four catches. Tyler Ellisen had eight tackles, Diniz kicked five extra points and five times sent the kickoff to the end zone for a touchback.

On the night, Escalon had 11 first downs to Buhach's 31 and the Cougars had 376 total yards of offense, Buhach 452. Escalon had 25 rushing plays for 334 yards and completed one-of-two passes for 42 yards. They had no fumbles and were penalized four times for 40 yards. Buhach had 61 rushing plays for 329 yards and had 123 yard through the air on 10-of-23 passes with one interception. The Thunder also lost all three fumbles, one recovered by Largent and two by Gutierrez. They were penalized four times for 30 yards.

"There were many major plays," Loureiro agreed of the satisfying win over a much larger division foe. "I didn't feel safe until I saw all zeros on the time clock."