PATTERSON Games like Patterson High's 27-24 double overtime victory over Escalon age you, if you're a coach.
But if you're a player, games like that allow you to mature like no other experience can.
And perhaps no one grew during the course of Friday night's marathon more than Tigers' junior quarterback Darrien Paulo, who shook off two fourth-quarter lost fumbles to throw two scoring passes in overtime.
The last one, a short post to Avion Warmsley, covered 8 yards to win the game after Escalon had to settle for a 25-yard field goal from Thomas Diniz.
"It was a little scary," said Paulo, whose team will be 4-0 when it meets Central Valley in a Western Athletic Conference opener Oct. 4.
"I knew they were rushing me in a way to keep me from running the ball, but if you take away my legs, you still have to deal with my passing and I believe we have the best receivers in the district right now."
Escalon not only kept Paulo from running the ball, the Cougars did the same to the rest of the Tigers, holding them as a team to four yards rushing.
Meanwhile, the opposite was true for Escalon (2-2,) which rumbled for 167 yards on the ground, including 154 yards from Frankie Bavaro, but was held to 47 passing yards.
"We're young and all I want to do is to be able to compete and the kids showed me tonight that they could," said Escalon coach Mark Loureiro. "They fought back earlier this year against Pacheco, and they fought back from two scores down tonight to force overtime."
Patterson got a 16-yard interception return for a score and a 27-yard pass from Paulo to Justin Hooker to take a 14-0 lead early in the third quarter. About the only thing keeping the Tigers in check was their own propensity for mistakes. The Tigers were penalized 15 times for 178 yards.
Escalon answered with an 81-yard scoring drive, all on the ground, but Patterson answered with a long march that fizzled at its own 15 when Paulo fumbled while scrambling.
That was all the window Escalon needed, and when Ben Hood hit Zachary Withrow with a 5-yard pass to tie the game 14-14 with 4:16 left, the Cougars finally had caught up.
Patterson again answered with a long march, moving to the Escalon 31 before another fumble with 46 seconds left gave the Cougars a chance to win in regulation.
A personal foul penalty helped Escalon move the ball to the Patterson 26, but with 8 seconds left a 42-yard field goal attempt by Diniz was deflected at the line of scrimmage, forcing overtime.
"I was praying," Paulo said. "When they lined up for the field goal I had the feeling that we were going to block it. The same thing happened last year when we blocked a field goal and beat Central Valley."
Patterson, with the ball first in overtime, needed one play to score, with Paulo rolling right and hitting Brandon Williams for the score. Escalon answered with a fourth-down, 4-yard run by Christian May.
The Cougars had the ball first in the second extra period, and had to settle for a 24-yard field goal from Diniz. Two plays later, Paulo threw the game-winner.
"Their quarterback is dangerous, which we knew," Loureiro said. "He gets outside the pocket and he keeps plays alive. Patterson was most successful tonight when he was able to do that."
And for Paulo, well, the Tigers' quarterback is a very confident young man heading into league play.
"The league that we're in ... those teams better be ready," Paulo said. "That's it."
Brian VanderBeek can be reached at (209) 578-2150 or follow him on Twitter, @modestobeek