On a night when Escalon High football coach Mark Loureiro matched the Sac-Joaquin Section record for most career victories, it’s only fitting that the victory was stamped with the Escalon brand.
That is to say, it was grind-’em-up, smash-mouth football at its finest.
The Cougars (4-2) claimed a 35-20 win in their Trans-Valley League opener against longtime rival Hughson (4-2), rushing for 318 yards and running 66 offensive plays to Hughson’s 45.
It was the 261st victory in Loureiro’s career, which started back in 1989, nearly a decade before any of the players on his current roster were even born. He’s tied with former Cordova (Rancho Cordova) coach Max Miller.
“You know, I’ve had two weeks to think about this,” Loureiro said. “It’s big, and I don’t mean that in a cocky way. It represents a lot of hard work by the kids, coaches and sacrifices made by my family. But it’s not about me; it’s about our community, our school, our coaches and our kids. I’m really proud of this.”
He was even prouder of his team’s first drive to open the second half.
With the score tied 14-14 after the break, Escalon took the opening kickoff and set up on its own 30. The Cougars marched 70 yards in about 3 1/2 minutes on eight, crisp running plays. Wesley Dick (25 carries, 102 yards, three TDs) punched it in from 16 and after David Martinez booted the PAT through the uprights, Escalon led 21-14.
“At halftime, our coach said that if somebody had offered him a tie game at halftime, he would’ve signed up for it because we’re a second-half team,” said junior offensive lineman Logan Widmer.
The Cougars defense then stepped and got the ball back for the offense with a three-an-out. The offense took over on its 43 and embarked on a 10-play drive that chewed up more than 5 minutes off the clock. A.J. Camarena (eight carries, 55 yards) scored his second TD of the night, this one a 7-yard burst that made it 28-14.
“We knew when we came in here that it was going to be a fight,” said senior offensive lineman Andrew Panero. “We were prepared for it.”
Hughson marched deep into Escalon territory on its next possession, but the drive fizzled on fourth-and-3 from the 27. After a 1-yard loss, the Cougars took over with 9:40 to play in the game. They would keep the ball for the next 4:34, with Dick scoring his final TD on a 1-yard plunge into the end zone, making it 35-14, with 5:06 to play.
Running back Hunter Calton, who didn’t find the end zone for Escalon, led all rushers with 167 yards on 21 carries. Hughson’s Devondre Stendardo had 95 yards on 10 attempts.
Escalon scored on its first two possessions of the night – Camarena hauled in a 20-yard pass from Caleb Mullen, and Dick scored from 5 – the Huskies came right back thanks to their explosiveness.
Stendardo broke free for a 40-yard game to set up an 11-yard TD pass from Walter Fountain to Tyler May. The Huskies tied the score on their next possession when Richard Herrera broke off a 40-yard run, setting up a 7-yard TD dash by Cesar Cuevas.
After that, Escalon dominated the time of possession, keeping Hughson’s explosive runners on the sideline.
“Escalon football,” explained Widmer.