Opening up a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, Escalon couldn’t sustain the momentum and saw the game slip away, the varsity football team ultimately falling to host Ripon on Friday night.
The Oct. 18 contest ended in a 42-21 final, the Indians handing Escalon its first loss of the season and leaving three teams – Escalon, Ripon and Hilmar – with one loss apiece in Trans-Valley League play. Escalon lost to Ripon, Ripon lost to Hilmar and Hilmar lost to Escalon in the head-to-head match ups.
“We stressed two things heading into Friday night, don’t turn the ball over and don’t give up the big play,” head coach Andrew Beam said.
Ironically, it was those two items that cost the Cougars.
“You can’t turn the ball over four times against a high quality opponent like Ripon and that’s what we did,” Beam said. “It was also our worst defensive game of the season. Once they got us out of our comfort zone, we were chasing them.”
Kaden Christensen had a huge game for his team but Ripon – at full strength for the first time in several weeks – had an answer for everyone else.
“They played a perfect game,” Beam agreed. “They were ready.”
Christensen scored on the first play from scrimmage after the Cougars returned the kickoff, going 82 yards for a touchdown. With the point after, it was 7-0 Cougars just 50 seconds into the game.
After holding Ripon and forcing the punt, Escalon converted on a big fourth down pass from Ty Harris to Logan Webster for the first down; Christensen was stopped just shy of the end zone later in the drive and then Luke Anderson took it in from a yard out for the score. The kick was good and it was 14-0 Escalon with 2:40 to play in the opening quarter. Ripon came back with a drive that ended with a short touchdown run, kick good, to trim the lead to 14-7 with 1:11 left in the first.
Two touchdowns by the Indians – including one in the closing seconds of the second quarter after a fumble by the Cougars – put the host team up 21-14.
The Indians took the second half kickoff but Escalon got a stop and, on their next possession, saw a play spring Christensen for a 64-yard scoring run. The kick was good to make it 21-21 with 7:50 to go in the third.
That would end the scoring for Escalon, though, and Ripon answered quickly.
“They scored right after that to make it 28-21,” Beam said.
The Indians would add two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter to take the 42-21 victory.
Colton Panero had 15 tackles in the game for Escalon and also playing well, said Beam, were Jacob Walden, David Camacho and Damien Tom.
“Kaden was the best player on the field, he had a really outstanding game, he had nine carries for 180 yards and two touchdowns,” Beam said.
Escalon had 392 total yards but 334 came on the ground, with just 58 in the air, Harris 9-for-18 with a pair of picks.
“We had two interceptions and two fumbles,” Beam said.
Ripon had 383 total yards, 166 through the air and 217 on the ground.
The Cougars lost some momentum when leading ball carrier Luke Anderson was lost in the second quarter, taking a hard hit and unable to come back to play in the second half.
Despite the tough loss, Beam said the team needs to move forward because there is still a lot of football ahead. They go to Livingston to face off with the Wolves on Oct. 25 and then will be home for Senior Night and the regular season finale against Hughson on Friday, Nov. 1.
“We still have a chance to win out, we could get a co-championship in league and a top four seed in Division five or six,” Beam noted. “Sometimes it’s not the worst thing in the world to take a loss. Livingston and Hughson will be real competitive games and we’re still playing for the TVL title.”