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Varsity Football - Opening Night Effort Good Enough For Win
Escalon built up a 30-0 lead before a late fourth quarter touchdown by Lathrop helped the visiting Spartans avoid the shutout. But an 89-yard return by Josh Miguel on the ensuing kickoff put the exclamation point on a 37-6 varsity football win on Friday night.

The defending state champion Cougars hosted Lathrop and played well enough to win, if not as well as they hoped.

"We're all right. We were ragged tonight, a little sloppy," head coach Mark Loureiro admitted following the season opener. "But how many teams can be sloppy and win 37-6?"

Sloppy won't be what the coach is looking for moving ahead, though, as the Cougars know they have to be prepared to face the best that every other team has to offer.

In his post-game huddle meeting with the team, Loureiro assured his players that everyone is coming at them full force. As defending Trans-Valley League, Sac-Joaquin Section and state champions, the Cougars will be a target for everyone.

"It's up to you to want to defend it," Loureiro told the team.

He also issued a challenge of his own, telling the team that the numbers would soon be "narrowed down" to those that can be counted on to give 110 percent every Friday night.

"We tried a lot of different combinations, got a lot of people playing time," Loureiro added of the Friday night home opener.

A good-sized crowd had several touchdowns to cheer about, while the game also attracted a live remote broadcast by radio station KWIN and the appearance of a KCRA Channel 3 camera crew for some sports reel highlights.

It was primarily a ground game for the Cougars as they matched up against the Lathrop squad, and it was Matt Roberson who scored the first touchdown of the season, going in on a 1-yard plunge with 4:50 to go in the first quarter. Gino Franceschetti added the kick after for an early 7-0 lead.

Quarterback Franceschetti helped his own cause with a 33-yard field goal at 9:54 of the second to make it 10-0.

Escalon fumbled on its next possession, getting stopped short when they were at the 15-yard line but Lathrop was unable to capitalize. The next possession featured a 38-yard pass from Franceschetti to Alec Von Alvensleben that set up a nice run by Roberson from 17 yards out in the closing seconds of the half. With the kick by Franceschetti, it was a 17-0 Cougar halftime lead.

Senior Josh Miguel scored his first touchdown of the season with 8:32 left in the third quarter on an 11-yard run. The kick failed but it was a 23-0 lead for Escalon, which basically put things on cruise control.

Lathrop did make a nice drive late in the third quarter but couldn't get the ball to the end zone and Escalon took over on downs deep in their own territory. Junior quarterback Phil Kimble, getting a chance for some game snaps, found Von Alvensleben on an 86-yard pass play with 21 seconds left in the third for a touchdown and the kick after made it 30-0.

"I started off rough," admitted Von Alvensleben, who had a couple of dropped passes before hauling in a pair of long throws. "Once I got that first catch in, the nerves were gone."

Von Alvensleben and Kimble have hooked up, thrower to receiver, plenty of times in their high school careers and it was a formula that worked well again for the third quarter strike.

Only a 37-yard touchdown run by Lathrop's Christian Pena - the 2-point conversion pass was picked off by Miguel - provided points for the Spartans, making it 30-6 with 2:03 left in the game.

Miguel, with some solid lead blocking from Roberson, quickly returned the favor, going 89 yards on the kickoff for the final touchdown of the night. The kick was good for a 37-6 final.

"I knew he was behind me, I was just hoping he wouldn't pass me," Roberson said of blocking on Miguel's long TD run. "We kind of struggled in the first half but we picked it up. It felt pretty good (for me) to get those first points on the board this season."

For defensive standout and team captain Nate Caton, the game was one where he saw the squad struggle, but recover.

"Some of the kids on offense were new, we have to blend," Caton said.

He also wants to see the defense provide more punishment against opposing offenses and more focus on completing assignments all the way around.

"I'm looking for more effort in practice," the captain said. "We have to take every game seriously, go hard, one game at a time."