In a week where everyone had a chance to contribute, the Escalon Cougars got their first varsity win of the Trans-Valley League campaign, rolling out to a huge lead and eventually taking a 62-6 decision off the field against host Riverbank.
The Friday night, Oct. 5 contest saw the Bruins kick off and, after just a couple of runs, the Cougars cashed in on a pass from Wyatt McCune to Alexis Jimenez for a touchdown in the first minute of play.
By the end of the first quarter, it was a 41-0 Escalon lead.
“We’ve been in two games that were physical, emotional games and this was a game where we got some confidence, we got some kids some rest,” head coach Andrew Beam said.
The Cougars opened up the league campaign with an overtime loss to Hilmar, losing by a field goal, and coming up just a point short against Modesto Christian, to start the TVL schedule 0-2.
The win was big, both in terms of scoring, and in terms of getting the Cougars back into the playoff hunt. They were able to keep Lucciano Dutra, Luke Anderson and Kaidence Trejo out of uniform and on the sidelines – giving them some recovery time from the first two league contests – and brought in multiple second unit players to help carry the load.
“We had seven different guys score,” Beam added.
The varsity also brought in a new kicker, Jose Mendez, a senior soccer player who has taken over for Guillermo Alvarez, another soccer standout, who is out with an injury. Mendez hit six of seven extra point tries, only missing one on a bad snap, and also had a field goal attempt and carried the ball late in the game for a sizeable gain.
Escalon had five rushing touchdowns in the first quarter alone, to go with the pass completion for a score, and amassed 218 yards on the ground in that opening frame.
“That was just insane,” Beam said. “Everyone got a little bit of time and we had 14 guys total carry the ball in the football game.”
McCune and Jimenez hooked up on the 6-yard pass play for the first score of the night, followed by a 50-yard run from Colton Panero, a 20-yard run from Christensen, six-yard run by Jordan Gwartney, with a pick six from Miguel Souza that went 37 yards for the score. Ethan Krieger closed out the first quarter with a 14-yard rushing touchdown. Five of the six point after attempts by Mendez went through, putting Escalon up 41-0.
In the second quarter, Jack Fitzgerald scored from a yard out with 9:53 to play to make it 48-0.
“Jack had five straight carries for 16 yards on that drive,” Beam said, ending with the successful plunge into the end zone.
The second half featured a running cock and the Cougars added a 55-yard run from Gwartney, kick good, in the third quarter for a 55-0 lead and McCune took it in from a yard out himself in the fourth, kick good, for the 62-0 advantage.
Riverbank, playing hard on every down, got a touchdown in their final drive of the game but were unable to get the point after. They did avoid the shutout, with the final score 62-6.
“We had over 411 yards of offense,” Beam added. “There was just tremendous output.”
Mikey Carroll had two and a half sacks, Cole Gilbert, Damien Tom and David Camacho each had a sack, with interceptions from Souza, Christensen and Bryan Hale.
“I just wanted to play hard like I always do,” said Carroll of working to make an impact.
He added that this week will be key, as the Cougars get ready to face the Indians.
“We have to be mentally prepared for a war,” he said.
McCune had the chance to take all the snaps under center and was pleased that so many Cougars got involved.
“It felt good to get into the end zone and to see everyone else get their touchdowns too,” he said. “I think it’s a confidence booster, gets us back on track.”
Garrett Nash had his first chance to get involved in the running game.
“It felt awesome,” said the senior running back and outside linebacker, who has played mostly on the defensive side of the ball this season. “We needed to get some confidence going for Ripon.”
Teammate Ethan Krieger, who notched a touchdown, agreed that it was a good game at a good time against Riverbank.
“It really boosted our morale and now we can focus on Ripon,” he said. “We’re all so excited to play them.”
Jacob Walden and Roman Gonzalez were the leading tacklers and also contributing some good minutes was Mason Hernandez, a junior defensive tackle and guard.
“This is a kid who helps make everyone better,” Beam said of Hernandez, always working hard in practice and helping the front line players prepare. “It was nice to see those first string guys on the sidelines cheering on the ones that work so hard for them in practice.”
McCune was 2-for-5 for 21 yards and a touchdown, while Gwartney was the leading rusher, three carries for 83 yards, Panero had two carries for 70 yards.
Now, it’s on to Homecoming and hosting Ripon on Friday night, Oct. 12.
“We’ve got to have blinders on,” Beam said. “Homecoming is about delivering for our crowd, the fans and community. Homecoming is always special for the seniors and they just happen to be playing their rival; this is a game that has playoff implications and Ripon is as fast and athletic as any TVL team I’ve seen in a long time.”
Kickoff will be about 7:30 p.m. at Engel Field.