ESCALON Los Banos and Escalon proved Friday night that neither team is the offensive juggernaut it was a year ago.
The Tigers, guided by two interceptions, defeated the Cougars 20-3 in the season-opener for both teams.
The game was far different than their two meetings last year. In their first meeting, Los Banos won 34-32 in the season opener. In the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs three months later, Escalon won in triple overtime 42-35.
On Friday at Lloyd C. Engel Field, Los Banos Alec Barcellos got the first key interception in the second quarter.
On fourth down, Escalon quarterback Ben Hood threw off-balance. Barcellos was the only player in the vicinity, and he returned the interception to the Escalon 3-yard line.
"We got some good pressure by our outside backer, it was a bad throw, and I was just sitting there waiting for it," Barcellos said. "It was like a birthday present, almost."
Barcellos' runback set up a 4-yard David Walker touchdown run to put Los Banos up 7-3, with a Thomas Diniz field goal representing Escalon's only points of the night.
Los Banos' Chris Lonetree put a stamp on the back-and-forth, field-position battle at the start of the fourth quarter with his own interception. Hood took a hit as he threw, and Lonetree swept in to grab the ball at a full gallop. He didn't slow down until hitting the end zone 59 yards later.
"Both defenses played really well. I'm very proud of our defense," Escalon coach Mark Loureiro said. "But we had our chances early, and we only got three points. We're a young team. You can't expect to make those kinds of mistakes and come out with a win."