ESCALON -- Mark Loureiro slew yet another giant in the foothills above Sacramento, bringing it down with a mighty swing of his sword in this case, that sword was Nathan Chunn.
When his Escalon High football program won its state title in 2010, Loureiro's weapon was agile Josh Miguel. He's won using blunt instruments and precision tools, mixing in the occasional pass with a mind-numbing series of runs.
He says Friday's 27-26 stunner over Placer, an 11-0 behemoth led by one of the nation's defensive elite, was the greatest upset in his 23 seasons.
His Cougars were winless after the first week of 2012, virtually unheard of during his time atop the program. Of course, he was replacing 18 of the 22 starters and it was a two-point loss on the road.
"Back then, we didn't know Los Banos was going to be an 11-1 team, did we?" said Loureiro, whose Cougars take their second trip of the season to Los Banos for Friday's Sac-Joaquin Section D4 semifinal.
"We have a very different team than the one I took down there to open the season. They took down a giant in Placer, and on the road."
What I enjoyed most about that wild finish Friday night was not Chunn's 156 rushing yards or Alec VonAlvensleben's seven catches four on that game-winning drive.
I loved Loureiro's confidence in kicker Thomas Diniz. It reminded me of the section championship game in 2010, when he orchestrated a game-winning field goal instead of trying to force it into the end zone.
It's a rare coach that doesn't risk a turnover, or a loss of yards, in a bid to get a TD even when a field goal would produce the win. Rather than try to punch the ball in, Loureiro called a timeout and came on the slippery field. With the ball on the 6, Loureiro began stomping about the 13-yard line, trying to find a dry spot for his kicker.
Once satisfied, Loureiro passed his instructions to Phillip Kimble, who took the snap and shuffled a few steps toward the middle of the field. Even with a dry spot, Diniz still slipped on his follow-through, but not enough to spoil his kick.
Gino Franceschetti was the quarterback who put the ball in the right place and the kicker who nailed the 24-yard field goal for a 22-20 win over Calaveras. That was Escalon's eighth section title, and it was denied Number 9 last fall when its 13-0 team was stunned by Trans-Valley League rival Hilmar in the final.
I can name a handful of coaches who would hand over the fate of the season to a kicker. What if the wet ball had slid through the holder's slick hands as it did up north, preserving Le Grand's 24-22 win over Golden Sierra in D6 or if 6-foot-4, 305-pound USC recruit Eddie Vanderdoes had burst through the line?
Loureiro didn't have to worry about that, because tackle Alan Gonzalez was neutralizing Placer's beast. Vanderdoes had dominated for 11 weeks, but his signature swim move failed against Gonzalez.
Escalon's 6-2, 285-pounder was also a winner. He emerged with an impressive tape to show recruiters. Nothing sells like a good highlight tape, particularly when it shows you holding your own and winning a few battles against one of the chosen few headed to Troy.
It's the piece of evidence that Gonzalez could use to sway the opinion of a few coaches who frowned on his small-school schedule.
Escalon's dramatic victory over state-ranked and undefeated Placer deserves a place among the greatest Stanislaus District playoff upsets in the last quarter-century, the time I've been at The Bee:
2012: ESCALON 27, PLACER 26
Placer was 11-0 and physically dominating its foes, and it featured Eddie Vanderdoes a 6-foot-4, 305-pound defensive linemen heading to USC. Placer had three other D1 recruits on what many said was the best team in school history. Escalon won it on Thomas Diniz's 23-yard field goal with no time remaining, and Mark Loureiro called it his greatest upset win as a coach in his 23 years leading the program.
2008: HILMAR 17, CENTRAL CATHOLIC 6
Central was 11-1, with a 23-7 regular-season win over Hilmar, and had won a section-record seven straight titles. It ended under the crush of Hilmar's defense, which held CC to 18 rushing yards. Hilmar's Donovan Smith was the star: Three catches for 114 yards and a 57-yard TD, two PAT kicks, a field goal, an interception and two deflections.
2000: OAKDALE 28, OAK RIDGE 21
Oak Ridge was 11-0 and atop Cal-Hi Sports' D2 state poll, had won 23 in a row and was steaming to its second consecutive section title behind a defense allowing just six points a game. An overflow crowd of 7,000 watched 5-10, 175-pound Luke Bell (157 yards, three TDs on 29 carries). The Trojans' star-studded lineup had a national recruit at tight end (6-7, 235-pound Tyler Ecker) and a host of college players.
1998: SONORA 24, DEL ORO 3
Del Oro had won three consecutive Division 2 titles and 23 straight games and this was considered by many to be its best team ever with future Stanford QB Randy Fasani. Sonora had a future NFL player, though, in Josh Parry, 91 yards and 10 tackles in the final. Parry's knee-buckling tackle sent Fasani to the sideline in the second quarter one of Sonora's seven sacks.
1998: GOLDEN VALLEY 22, TURLOCK 21
Turlock was 10-1 and beat GV 26-14 in conference play, while GV took a 7-3 record to the playoffs. The Cougars upset St. Mary's a week earlier, but the season looked over on this night until Morgan Madruna caught a 35-yard TD pass on the final play to make it 21-20. GV went for the win, using the swinging gate play on the PAT, with quarterback Sergio Mendoza diving in just inside the pylon. "The way Turlock was pounding on us up front, we had to go for two," coach Dennis Stubbs said.
1987: DOWNEY 7, VINTAGE 0
An old-school game from an era when defense still won titles, Vintage had never lost a home playoff game (12-0) and Downey was 6-4. A 1-yard run by Donnie Creek with 49 seconds in the first half was the lone TD and Trevor Rush intercepted three passes. Creek and Rush also combined on a fourth-and-2 stop at the 9 in the final minutes. "We were such underdogs to Vintage ... this might be the most gratifying victory I've ever gotten," coach Nick Chipponeri said.