By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Varsity Victory Team Effort Lifts Football Cougars Past Visiting Ripon
Ripon never really got on track and Escalon was more than happy to keep the visitors derailed, the host Cougars putting a 45-13 win on the books in varsity football action on Friday night.

The margin of loss may have had something to do with the Indians losing starting quarterback Alex Gustin to an injury - he seemed to hurt his leg getting a cleat stuck in the grass early on - but it had just as much to do with the fact that the Cougars put together their best effort of the season.

"We really had a good week of practice and this was the first time we really came together as a team," head coach Mark Loureiro said of the all-around outstanding effort.

"We had a couple of blocked punts, it was the best defensive game we've played, the offense was moving ... the last time we played at home, we got beat so the kids were really focused."

Though it was just the second Trans-Valley League contest for the Cougars, after a big win over Riverbank on Oct. 1, Loureiro said it really was already a "must win" game.

"We knew it was a big game," he said, with a 3-0 TVL-leading Orestimba looming this week.

Escalon scored twice in the first quarter and three in the second to lead it 35-0 at the half. They added a touchdown and a field goal in the third quarter, extending the lead to 45-0, with Ripon finally breaking through for a couple of scores in the final quarter to avoid the shutout.

After Ripon had to punt the ball away to end its first possession of the game, Escalon wasted little time in hitting pay dirt. On the third play from scrimmage, quarterback Gino Franceschetti found Josh Miguel wide open on the left side, leading him perfectly with the pass. From there, it was Miguel shedding tackles and converting on what turned out to be a 91-yard catch and run for the touchdown. Franceschetti added the point after for a 7-0 Cougar lead with 8:31 left in the first.

They scored again with two minutes left in the opening quarter, with a couple of nice runs by Miguel and Adrian Cortes leading to a 3-yard score that saw Miguel dive for the end zone to avoid a tackle. The kick was good, and it was 14-0 Escalon.

"In the second quarter, Gino hooked up with James Hill on a real nice ball, it went 24 yards for a touchdown," explained Loureiro. The kick was good, making it 21-0.

The second blocked punt of the night - this one by Tony Vincent - set up a 9-yard touchdown strike from Franceschetti to Brandon Shaw, with Franceschetti adding the kick for a 28-0 lead with five minutes to play in the half. Nate Caton also had a blocked punt to his credit against Ripon.

The Indians still couldn't get much going, as the hole got deeper, and they punted it away with 3:49 to play in the half. There was no return, but Miguel rumbled 61 yards on the first play from scrimmage and Franceschetti added the kick for an overwhelming 35-0 lead at the half.

The Cougars got the ball to start the second half and went on a typical Escalon drive, eating up minutes and yardage, cashing in a 16-yard run by Miguel with 7:52 to play in the third quarter. Nice rushes by Hill and a catch by Shaw aided the drive.

The Cougars capped the scoring with just under two minutes to go in the third, on a 31-yard field goal by Franceschetti, making it 45-0.

"They scored two times in the last quarter," Loureiro said of Ripon.

Losing Gustin changed the Indians' game plan and even though they came in with a lot of weapons, they didn't have an answer for Escalon's relentless attack, on both sides of the ball.

"Gino really stepped up, he played a big game under pressure, was 5-for-6 for 147 yards and three touchdowns, was 6-for-6 in his extra point attempts and kicked a field goal, that's just a complete ball game for us," Loureiro said.

"Josh had another big game, three touchdown runs, with seven rushes for 86 yards and one catch for a touchdown, 91 yards, plus 73 yards on punts and kickoffs," the coach added. "James Hill played well and all the kids up front did a good job blocking, Dylan Cathcart, Chad Hale, Jacob Wallace, Nate Caton."

It was a breakout performance for junior tackle and defensive lineman Tony Vincent as well.

"He had six tackles and a blocked punt, a nice ball game for him," explained Loureiro. "Brandon Shaw really stepped up on defense, he's been contributing offensively but this was his best defensive game with six tackles, Gilberto Mancilla led us in tackles with nine and Ian Fitzgerald had five tackles."

All players got into the game, which Loureiro was happy to do, but wasn't expecting given the tough contest they anticipated against Ripon.

Escalon ran 35 rushing plays for 227 yards and had 147 yards through the air on 5-of-6 pass completions. They fumbled once but didn't lose it, and were penalized five times for 35 yards. The Cougars had 374 of offense on the night, with eight first downs. Ripon had 10 first downs and 204 yards of offense, running 41 rushing plays for 161 yards, completing just 5-of-16 pass attempts for 43 yards. They fumbled three times but got it back each time and were penalized twice for a total of 15 yards.


With all the distractions this week for Homecoming, Loureiro said his players will have to be extra vigilant and do their job, insuring a varsity victory for everyone to celebrate. But it won't be easy, as the high-flying Orestimba Warriors come in on a roll, topping Hughson, Riverbank and Modesto Christian in league games already.

"They are 3-0 in the TVL, 5-2 overall, they had a big win over Hughson and they beat Modesto Christian 44-35," Loureiro pointed out.

Head coach is Aaron Souza, with the team colors purple, gold and white.

"They've really turned it around, they've got a lot of alumni coaching and they are coming in with fire in their eyes," Loureiro said of the Warriors, who moved from the Southern League into the Trans-Valley League this season.

Team leaders are twin brothers Ravonne Pious, a senior quarterback, and Ramone Pious, a wide receiver. Both come in at 5-11, 160 and are effective in working together. Also among the top receivers is Raymond Musquez, 6-1, 160. Leading rusher is Mike King, 5-10, 165 with top linebackers Brandon Perez, 5-11, 170; Matt Moreno, 5-9, 175; and Christian Calzada, 6-1, 200.

Escalon will need to have another game like the Ripon contest, hitting on all cylinders and all focused on a single goal; Orestimba will have the inside track to the league title if they topple the Cougars.

"We have to be focused," agreed Loureiro. "We don't have to worry about the float, the parade, the queen ... our job is to win this football game."

The JV team starts the Friday night festivities at 5:30 p.m. and varsity will take the field for an estimated 7:30 p.m. kickoff.