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Varsity Cougars Topple Ripon Christian For League Victory
Unlike most of its games this season, Escalon didn't put any points on the board in the first 12 minutes of Saturday night's contest with Ripon Christian.

And it was a defensive stand by the host Knights that kick-started the Escalon offense the next time around, as they were held out on a fourth down play from the 4-yard line at the end of their first drive of the night.

From there, the Cougars rattled off 28 unanswered first half points on the way to a convincing 42-6 win on the road in the Trans-Valley League opener for both teams.

"We were a little flat all week in practice," admitted head coach Mark Loureiro. "What kind of woke us up was that we didn't get in on the first drive, we started taking things for granted a little bit."

Escalon kicked off to start the game, as the two teams with identical 5-0 preseason marks met on the field at Ripon High in a Saturday night game. Ripon Christian does not have a football field, so they had to use the neighboring Ripon site a day later than the rest of the TVL games were played.

Ripon Christian had to punt away on its first possession and Escalon started their first drive from the 35-yard line, where the RC punt bounced out of bounds. After a couple of rushing plays, the Cougars were assessed a 5-yard penalty. They made up a little bit of ground and opted to go for it in a fourth and four situation but the Ripon Christian defense held them out of the end zone, stopping progress for the Cougars at the 2-yard line. They took over on downs with 6:03 to play in the opening quarter.

Another punt by Ripon Christian after a short possession gave the Cougars the ball in good field position and they were driving as time expired in the first quarter.

Spencer Franceschetti found Blake Nayer in the end zone and connected on a 7-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the second quarter. The kick by Jason Diniz was good for a 7-0 lead with 11:55 to play in the first half.

The squib kick by Diniz was too hard for RC to handle and they ended up at the 3-yard line, looking at 97 yards to go. Two short rushing plays and an incomplete pass later, the Cougars had the ball back on the punt, with Danny Thompson nearly breaking free, going about 26 yards before being stopped at the 3-yard line. From there, Izzy Ruiz took it in for the score, the kick was good and it was 14-0 Escalon with 10:07 left in the second quarter.

"We reeled off 28 points in the second quarter and ended up with 42," Loureiro pointed out.

They also held Ripon Christian, which came in with high hopes of taking down the Cougars, to a single touchdown late in the game.

"Defensively, we kind of swarmed the ball, we held them to 129 total yards," explained Loureiro. "A lot of that came at the end of the game."

Nick Largent had 10 tackles from his inside linebacker spot, with good games also recorded by Ruiz and Derrick DeFreitas.

"On the down line, Mike Gutierrez played well and we got good minutes and a sack from Paul Brown, good minutes from Ramon Ramos, it was nice to see them get in on the action."

Rounding out the first half scoring for Escalon were Charlie McDonald, on a 35-yard run in which he spun out of a sure tackle to find the end zone, and a drive that saw three pass completions from Franceschetti to Thompson, capped by a 24-yard touchdown toss with just 17 second left in the half. Diniz added the kick each time to give the Cougars a 28-0 cushion.

Nayer, who got the Cougars on the board with his touchdown reception, was cited for his efforts by Loureiro.

"Blake had a great game on both sides of the ball, defense and offense," said the coach. "He caught that touchdown pass, did a nice job blocking, a lot of his blocks sprung us for our big runs."

McDonald had nine carries on the night for 121 yards and two touchdowns; Ruiz had 12 carries for 94yards and two touchdowns; with eight carries for 53 yards for Diniz.

Thompson caught four passes for 40 yards and a touchdown, Franceschetti completed 5-of-7 pass attempts and threw for two scores.

"I thought we did a nice job on the inside blocking," added Loureiro. "Our tackles, Thomas Martin, J.D. Visser and Jason Johnstad did a good job."

Escalon got the ball to start the second half and it was a quick run up the field, with Ruiz capping a relatively short drive with an 8-yard touchdown run with 10:12 to play in the quarter. Diniz added the kick for a 35-0 lead.

It was 42-0 with 3:33 to play in the third, McDonald taking one in from 30 yards out and Diniz adding the kick.

With that big a lead, many of the starters were pulled and the second units started going in to get some playing time. Steve Silva, Anthony Gonzales and Tyler Gonzales all got in on the ball carrying through the third and fourth quarters, gaining some valuable experience.

Ripon finally broke through for a score with 2:37 to go in the game, turning a fourth and six into a 45-yard touchdown run. The snap on the point after attempt was high and the holder tried to turn it into a 2-point conversion but the throw was incomplete.

With just a couple of minutes left, Escalon maintained possession of the ball for the rest of the contest, under the direction of quarterback Phil Quiroz, putting the win on the board in TVL play.

Loureiro likened the performance to the worker that punches the time clock, does his job, and goes home.

"You don't do anything fancy, just get the job done," he said of the effort his team showed against Ripon Christian. "But top to bottom, we have to pick the level of play up ... good playoff teams win on the road and from the first guy to the last guy, we have to bring it."

The Cougars will be at Hughson for a Friday night game, Oct. 24, and Loureiro said they will have to be focused, with the Huskies coming off an overtime victory against Ripon, and coming in on a bit of a roll.

For Escalon, Loureiro said he was glad to get everybody involved in the game against Ripon Christian and glad to put it in the win column.

Escalon had 15 first downs on the night to Ripon Christian's five, with the Cougars rolling up 374 yards of offense to RC's 129.

The Cougars completed 5-of-9 pass attempts for 47 yards, and rushed 42 times for 327 yards. They didn't fumble and were penalized three times for 25 yards. The Knights completed 6-of-14 pass attempts for 61 yards and rushed 32 times for 68 yards. They fumbled once but retained it, and were penalized five times for 40 yards.

"It was a little too quick for them," Loureiro said of the pace of the game for the host Knights, "but their kids fought back, Ripon Christian played with some heart."