Andrew Beam hasn't wasted time putting his fingerprints on the Escalon High football program.
The former Cougar quarterback was officially named the head coach at his alma mater last week. Beam replaces longtime coach Mark Loureiro, who announced his retirement following Escalon's run to a share of the Trans-Valley League title last fall.
Loureiro will also retire as the school's athletic director on June 2.
Loureiro coached varsity football at Escalon for nearly three decades, winning a Sac-Joaquin Section record 281 games. Along the way, Loureiro led the Cougars to eight section titles, third-best in section history, 15 TVL titles and the CIF State championship in 2010.
Beam starred for one of the school's best teams in 2005. In two seasons as a starting quarterback, Beam was 21-4 and helped engineer a 23-0 victory over Hilmar in the Division IV section final.
He continued his playing career at Delta College, Bowling Green State University, a Division I program in the Mid-American Conference, and University of Findlay, a D-II school in Ohio. Beam said Escalon fans can expect to see influences from all four of his stops, especially on offense.
"For four years, I was in a spread offense. For four years in high schools, I was under center and never took a shotgun snap," Beam said. "I'm hoping we can mesh the two."
The Cougars will retain some of the basics of the Wing-T, but will infuse elements of the spread.
"We will keep a lot of the same system we've had here for so long," Beam said. "But one advantage we'll have, teams can no longer predict what we can do. That will be our advantage. We can bust out anything on any team. We'll keep things close to the vest. You'll see some of the basic Wing-T football, but there will be a lot of changes."
Beam will build around juniors Kaden Christensen (1,382 all-purpose yards, 13 touchdowns), a dynamic running back, and two-way linemen Jacob Walden (6-foot-1, 190 pounds) and Damien Tom (6-1, 250). All three made the jump to varsity in the fall.
After missing the postseason the last two years, Escalon earned a split of the TVL title with Ripon and Modesto Christian. The Cougars beat Mariposa in the first round of the Division VI playoffs, before losing a heartbreaker at home to Hilmar, 41-38.
That loss has launched the Beam era. He has been impressed with the program's drive and determination through the holidays and into the new year.
"The nice thing is we're hungry," said Beam, who teaches psychology and weight-lifting. "We felt like we left something on the table last year. We had three sophomores on that team that were impact players. As juniors, they'll be two-way players. We have a good senior class coming back. I think there is some sophomore personnel and bodies that will have fill key spots.
"I like the direction. I think they're hungry. We've been lifting since January, because the last time we were on the field, we felt like we left something out there."
Escalon has strengthened its schedule, too, adding four-time Mother Lode League champion Sonora, arguably the Stanislaus District's top small-school team during that stretch. The Cougars open the season against Union Mine, then face a difficult back-to-back against Calaveras and Sonora, and then wrap up the nonconference portion of their schedule with River City, a Division I playoff team.
"With Ripon and Hilmar being the favorites, we had to challenge ourselves in the preseason so that we're ready for league," Beam said. "We've done 7 on 7 with them the last couple of years, and the coaching staffs like each other. We like their kids and they respect us. We feel it's a good small-town matchup."