ESCALON — ESCALON Mark Loureiro has been at this football business for quite awhile. He's pretty good at it, too.
That's why he knew a blowout loss last week that dropped his program to 2-3 wasn't the catastrophe it might have seemed.
Loureiro's Escalon High Cougars came back with a vengeance and dominated previously unbeaten Hughson 31-11 in their homecoming game Friday night at Engel Field.
"Sure we did," said Loureiro, when asked if his team played with a little extra attitude after last week's 35-3 loss to Ripon in the Trans-Valley League opener. "That was a low point in this program's history, something we've never seen here in 25 years.
"But tonight was homecoming, and we talked about all the alumni coming back who wanted to see if the tradition was still here."
Hughson's first play from scrimmage was a 28-yard burst from Tanner Duron, the Huskies' running back averaging 139 yards per game this season. After that, however, Duron was bottled up and didn't do much until he broke off a meaningless 30-yarder in the fourth quarter.
All told, Hughson (4-1, 0-1 TVL) rushed for 137 yards and passed for 159. Much like the rushing total, though, Hughson's passing numbers were inflated with completions of 24, 31 and 44 yards nearly two-thirds of the total on the final three plays.
"That's a good football team over there, but we kind of handed it to them tonight," said Hughson coach George Harp, whose team committed two costly turnovers in the second quarter, both leading to scores. "We can't make mistakes like that. After they jump up on you, they have the offense to eat the clock."
Escalon (3-3, 1-1) was leading 7-0 thanks to a Christian May 2-yard TD run when Caleb Mullen recovered a Hughson fumble that gave the Cougars the ball at Hughson's 32 with 5 minutes, 52 seconds, to play in the first half. Thirty-two seconds later, Escalon cashed in when Tyler Lawrence hauled in a screen pass from Ben Hood and raced 32 yards for the score. Thomas Diniz's second PAT of the quarter made it 14-0.
Less than a minute later, the Huskies fumbled again and defensive lineman Colin Strasser scooped it up at the 25 and nearly scored, getting dragged down at the 1.
"You know, I thought I had it after I dodged that first guy," said Strasser. "But I can't think that fast I'm not a running back, I'm a lineman. But it was close."
Frankie Bavaro finished the job on the next play and Diniz booted another PAT to make it 21-0 at the half.
From there, the Cougars went into full Wing-T, eat-the-clock mode.
"We really haven't had a problem with fumbling the ball this season," said Harp. "But we haven't played a team like that, either. We'll learn from this and come back better. There's a reason the TVL is one of the toughest leagues in the state."
Conversely, the Cougars' schedule with games against Los Banos, Pacheco, Patterson and Ripon had them prepared for a game such as this.
"Our schedule really helped us in this game," said Loureiro. "This game was played a lot faster than they might have realized."