Nathan Chunn got it all Friday night, topping 2,000 yards for the season and leading Escalon High to a earthshaking upset of Placer a team with a USC-bound lineman and a trio of other college recruits.
So much talent was stacked on one side of the field, countered by Chunn and a plucky group of small-town players.
Coach Mark Loureiro motivated the Cougars with one of his classic pre-game speeches but even he had his doubts.
"I've never won a game like this, not with my team being such a huge underdog," said Loureiro, the Stanislaus District's premier coach with a 239-43-1 record in 24 seasons.
Chunn had 26 carries for a 156 yards and three TDs, lifting his school-record rushing total to 2,014 yards. He is the district's for 2K back since Johansen's Devin Cannon rambled for 2,054 yards in 2008.
Chunn and Alec VonAlvensleben dominated Placer like no one has in seasons. Everyone loves to stick four fingers in the air, as if they own will the fourth period, but the Cougars did it with conviction.
Placer, 11-0 and scoring 39 a game, had three plays in the fourth period. Escalon, in contrast, drove 86 yards in 2 minutes to set up Thomas Diniz's 23-yard field goal on the final play of a 27-26 win that sends the Cougars to Los Banos Friday in a Division 4 semifinal.
The teams began the season in Los Banos, the host Tigers hanging for a 34-32 win. Escalon's only other loss was to Ripon (11-0 before Friday's loss) and Los Banos' only loss was to Central Catholic in Week 5.
Central Catholic is the team that ended Ripon's season Friday with a 40-21 win, and that sends the Raiders (10-2) into a D4 semifinaler (11-1).
Escalon's 27-26 win over Placer will down go as one of the schoo's all-time victories, according to Escalon coach Mark Loureiro, and it seems like every play, every turn, as important to the outcome. The Bee's Ron Agostini was in Placer for the win, and here are his thoughts on what the Cougars did to score the win:
Escalon outgained Placer 384-204. Ran 58 offensive plays to Placer's 39.
Escalon FB Nathan Chunn 25 carries, 138 yards and touchdowns of 11 yards and 67 yards. The 11-yarder was a fullback trap, a delayed misdirection play that fooled Placer. The 67-yarder was a quick hitter to the right. Also into the end zone untouched.
Escalon WR Alec Alvensleben 6 catches for 102 yards and a touchdown. Hooked up with QB Phillip Kimble twice for big plays in 4th qtr: 8-yd fade for TD, and 38-yarder where he leaped over double coverage (great catch) to the Placer 9 to set up winning FG. One of the Placer defenders was Isaiah Pineiro, who had 9 picks this season.
QB Phillip Kimble 15-8-1 for 121 yards and a TD and 2-pointer. Placer completed only 1 pass out of 5 for 26 yards.
Placer's 2nd half: 1 safet (punt snap out of ez), 1 FG, 1 first down. Ran only three offensive plays and a punt in 4th qtr.
Placer RB Isaac Brahce 15 carries, 71 yards...His TD was a 75-yarder, but get this: He was stuffed for negative yardage on 4 of his first 5 plays. Was held to negative or 0 yards on 8 carries. Great night by Escalon LB Johnathon Costa, Lance Davis, Robert Steves and others.
A few observations:
The bracket was Placer's to win. Placer dropped to D-4 on final night of regular season by the way the games played out.
Their 59-3 wipeout of Hilmar may have hurt Placer. Placer people said Hilmar was terrible last week (6 turnovers and allowed 45 pts in first half). Overconfident?
Escalon deferred the opening kickoff and punched Placer in the face to start the game. Stuffed Placer on opening series, and after Escalon's 3-and-out Alvensleben rolled a punt that was downed at the 1. On 2nd down from the 1, Brahce looked like he had room off RT but slipped and fell untouched in the end zone for a safety. Placer fumbled on its next offensive play, and Lance Davis recovered on the Placer 43. Four plays later, Chunn scored from the 11. With 3:02 left in 1st quarter, 9-0.
Placer stabilized with a couple of big plays and led 14-9, but Chunn then goes 67 yds for TD and Escalon retakes the lead 15-14. This is interesting: With his PAT team on the field, Mark Loureiro calls a timeout and rethinks. He decides to go for 2 and gets it with a neat play: Kimble rolls left and must decide whether to keep and dash for the pylon or pass to TE Andrew Zavala. The Placer defender commits to Kimble, who then lobs perfectly to Zavala in EZ for the deuce and 17-14 lead with 7:11 left in half. Check the final score for the importance of that decision.
Placer recovers in the last minute of half when VonAlvsensleben shanks a 4-yard punt out of his own end zone to the Escalon 11.Michael Robinson scores from the 1 with 59 seconds left in half for Placer's 21-17 halftime lead.
I didn't have time to ask Loureiro about this: The second half opened with Placer's Dominic Granieri, a great kicker, booming it out of the end zone for a touchback.Loureiro stops the game for 2 minutes as he chats with the referee. I think it had something to do with Placer's ball (shades of the State Final in 2010).
Loureiro thought this was the key moment of the game, and I think he's right: Late in the 3rd with Escalon at the Placer 33, Kimble makes his only mistake, a sideline interception that Brahce returns 71 yards to the Escalon 4. Three plays gets Placer to the 1, and Placer coach Joey Montoya opts for the short field goal and a 26-17 lead.
Again, stubborn defense helps Escalon. Loureiro: "If they score (a TD) there, we're in trouble."
Escalon then takes over the game.
Escalon successfully neutralized Placer's star DL Eddie Vanderdoes. Vanderdoes is very good and pursues hard. Before each snap, he stands behind nose tackle and either lines up to the left or the right.
At first, I thought he was just going to the strong side. But in the second half according to Loureiro, he started to follow Escalon T Alan Gonzalez, who Escalon was running successfully behind. That gave Escalon a chance to use misdirection away from Gonzalez.
Loureiro: "On the last couple of drives, we decoyed Alan and kept him (Vanderdoes) away. We took some chances with our soft against their soft and we were able to move the ball. He's a great player but we saw some tendencies and we took that to our advantage." Vanderdoes looked a little weary in the 4th qtr, which was no surprise. Hillmen D was on the field most of the night.
Thomas Diniz, a junior, is the third Diniz brother to kick for Escalon, as you probably know. Loureiro before the big kick: "I didn't talk to him. I told everyone to stay away from him. Let him get in the zone by himself and he'll be fine."
Perfect snap by Andrew Zavala (who made a critical catch during the 4th qtr), perfect hold by Robert Steves, clutch kick by Diniz though his plant foot slipped slightly. He didn't drill it, but it was good all the way.
Also from Loureiro
About possession advantage: "That's us. That's our style of ball. Keep the ball away from them. That's our best defense. You can't keep your defense out there all night with their (Placer's) speed."
WATERFORD The Wildcats (9-2) play for their first section title Saturday, when they face Southern League rival Le Grand (10-2). It's scheduled at the Lodi Grape Bowl, but the game could be moved to the south for convenience and to increase attendance.
Turlock is a logical site, you won't find a better stadium in the district, while Golden Valley also is a good fit. Regardless of where the game is, the Wildcats will miss star running back Dylan Gonzalez.
He injured his knee early in Friday's win over Highlands and underwent surgery Saturday. Gonzalez said he dislocated his femur and tore ligaments on his knee he tore ligaments in the other knee in Week 5 of his junior year.
Gonzalez had piled up 1,290 yards and 21 TDs, but now the load to Branson Angle. He delivered, carrying 31 times for 133 yards and two TDs his second strong game in a row.
Angle had eight runs for 156 yards and three TDs in a 47-22 win over Turlock Christian to cap the regular season.
Bee staff writer Richard T. Estrada can be reached at (209) 578-2300 or email@example.com.