With 5:45 to play in the first quarter, Logan Anderson put the first touchdown of the season on the board for the Escalon Cougars, staking the varsity to an early lead over visiting Linden.
By the end of the night, Escalon scored a total of eight touchdowns and took a 55-30 win off the field over the Lions.
“It was a weird game,” head coach Andrew Beam admitted, especially coming so soon after the unorthodox spring football games the team played earlier this year.
Football for the 2020-21 school year was moved to spring as a result of COVID-19 and the Escalon varsity got in just a trio of contests during the shortened season this past spring. The Friday night kickoff, Aug. 20, was the first fall football game since August of 2019.
“I never felt like we were in jeopardy of losing the game but it was frustrating for us as coaches and for the players too, we know we need to be better to win football games and we can be better,” Beam stated.
Escalon scored in every quarter, with a 14-0 lead after one, 21-6 at the half, 41-18 after three and then added two fourth quarter scores for the 55-30 final. Linden proved to be a resilient team, kicking a pair of field goals in the second quarter and scoring a pair of touchdowns in each of the third and fourth quarters as they tried to keep the Cougars within arm’s reach.
“I think it was a case of having to knock off the rust,” admitted Beam. “We also showed our inexperience and our immaturity. We’re 1-0 but we know it (performance) is not up to the standard we need to be.”
Linden won the toss and deferred, so the Cougars made the most of that opportunity and ate up over six minutes of the clock on the way to Anderson’s 12-yard touchdown run. Alfonzo Gonzalez added the extra point, the first of seven he hit on the night.
Ryker Peters scored on a 19-yard run, also in the first, with the kick good. Second quarter action saw Owen Nash pull in a 19-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Donovan Rozevink for a touchdown, again with the kick good.
In the third quarter, Nash and Rozevink hooked up again, this time on a 30-yard pass play, kick good.
JP Lial then scored on a 32-yard run but a bad snap meant there was no point after attempt on that play. Anderson broke free on a 56-yard run late in the third – getting through four or five would-be tacklers – after Linden had trimmed the lead to 34-18, and with the kick the Cougars built up a 41-18 advantage.
The final scores of the night came in the fourth quarter for Escalon, a 22-yard run by Matthew Baptista, kick good and a 15-yard run by Peters, kick good.
Beam said there were some miscues, including a couple of fumbles, and some wrong formations that need to be addressed in practice.
“I would hope, as competitors, the mindset of the kids is that we need to grow and improve and I think that is where they are,” he said.
There were also several bright spots, areas on which to build.
“On offense, our skills positions did very well, all the running backs ran the ball very well and we do have some depth there,” Beam explained. “Logan Anderson had nine carries for 160 yards and two touchdowns, JP Lial had seven carries for 85 yards and a touchdown and at fullback, Ryker Peters had eight carries for 80 yards and two touchdowns.”
Owen Nash had a “highlight reel game,” said Beam, with eight catches for 137 yards and two touchdowns and Rozevink, in his first varsity start, was 9-for-10 passing for 163 yards and two touchdowns.
Defensively, Matthew Baptista and Javier Gutierrez each had an interception; brothers EJ, a senior, and Ryan Lewis, a freshman, had two sacks each while middle linebacker Caden Gonsalves had 10 tackles.
The Cougars had 569 yards of total offense compared to 364 for Linden. Escalon rolled up 404 rushing yards and had 163 passing, Linden had 170 yards rushing and 194 passing.
This week, Escalon travels to Calaveras for a Friday night game, Aug. 27.
“We like the game because of the physicality,” Beam said of getting ready to take on the Calaveras squad. “This will be a really good test for our guys to see what we have.”
Calaveras is coming off a thumping of McNair of Stockton and will welcome the Cougars to competition on a brand new turf field.
“Linden spread us out, Calaveras is going to run the ball,” added Beam. “We have to be ready for that.”