Thursday, December 09, 2010

Cougars Claim Section Crown Angels In The End Zone
By Marg Jackson. Escalon Times 

Not having tasted defeat since an eye opening Friday night in mid-September against Patterson, Escalon's varsity football Cougars capped off a storybook season with a come-from-behind, you've-got-to-be-kidding-me 22-20 victory over a determined Calaveras Redskins team at Lincoln in Stockton on Dec. 3. The win crowned Escalon as the Sac- San Joaquin Section Division IV team champions.

Taking what seemed to be a safe 19-7 lead with victory  just over nine minutes to go in the fourth quarter, Escalon had to dig deep and regroup after two Redskins touchdowns gave the resilient Mother Lode League champions a 20-19 lead with 2:54  to play in the game.

The final Cougar drive included a Hail Mary pass from a scrambling junior quarterback Gino Franceschetti on a fourth and 21 that somehow was pulled in by senior Brandon Shaw, going up and over two Redskins defenders, giving the Cougars life. A few rushing plays later, looking at a fourth and 4 with just 31 ticks of the clock left, it was Franceschetti and Shaw again, the senior Shaw holding the ball as junior Franceschetti sent off a field goal attempt after another perfect snap from long snapper Victor Carrillo. When the ball sailed through the uprights for a 22-20 lead, then it was up to the defense to contain what had been an explosive Calaveras offense.

The Redskins returned the ball to near midfield on the kickoff and benefited from an Escalon too many men penalty but with 16 seconds left, defensive standout Tony Vincent put the exclamation point on the night with a sack of the Redskins quarterback to seal the win as time expired, securing the 225th career coaching victory for head coach Mark Loureiro.

"Unbelievable," said a happy but exhausted junior Josh Miguel, who rushed for 196 yards and accounted for two of Escalon's three touchdowns. "The best feeling in the world. That score we got just before halftime was big, but hats off to Calaveras, they're a good team."

Miguel couldn't say enough about teammate Franceschetti, scrambling for what seemed like forever before sending off the final pass.

"The football Gods were on our side, Gino stuck in there looking for a guy to throw it to, we caught the good side of that one," Miguel said.

Senior Chad Hale said even when Calaveras took the lead, the Cougars would not let each other get down.

‘We were fired up, we were ready to go, we knew we were going to come back," he said of finding that belief in each other so crucial to the game-winning drive. "There was some divine intervention there when the ball got tipped and Shaw caught it."

Shaw himself said his legs nearly gave out on him, scrambling while trying to elude the Redskins pursuing him down the field.

"In my mind, yes," Shaw said of knowing he was going to catch the ball as it arced its way toward him. "l had some doubters, but I proved 'em all wrong."

An emotional senior Adrian Cortes, wiping tears of joy from his face, said it all came down to the teamwork, the camaraderie of this years Cougars, Escalon's latest band of brothers.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

In a game dominated statistically by the Cougars, they had to find one last miracle to come away with a win, and they seated their eighth Sac-Joaquin Section championship with a clutch held goal late in the fourth quarter.

For head coach Mark Loureiro, the victory at Lincoln High in Stockton on Dec. 3 as sweet adding its own flavor to the cornucopia of wins the Cougars have massed at the Section level.

"It's not something you're going to forget," Loureiro admitted. Escalon had pretty much been in control for the first three quarters, and took hat looked like an insurmountable 19-7 lead with some nine minutes to go in the contest. Loureiro  said he felt certain then that his team would be hoisting th blue banner.

"I thought we were in control, we had 367 yards to their 212, but the momentum just swung crazily," said Loureiro.

Calaveras, looking for its first Section title in more than a half dozen trips to the finals, grabbed its chance, suddenly able to make big plays and shred the usually tight defense of the Cougars, burning them for a couple of quick scores and a 20-19 lead with just under three minutes to play,

"lt would have been a tough loss to take, no question about that," said Loureiro. "l have never, in all my years of coaching here, blown a two touchdown lead in he fourth quarter.”

What turned out to be the game winning drive included an amazing pass from quarterback Gino Franceschetti to Brandon Shaw on a fourth and 21, a ball that Shaw pulled in over two defenders, taking a deflection off a Calaveras player. Not only that, said Loureiro, he continued to make headway up the Reid against all odds.

"They rushed three guys so that gave Gino a chance," Loureiro said of the Calaveras defense on the 'Hail Mary' pass that Franceschetti got off on the pivotal fourth and 21 play that was do or die for the Cougars, “He threw it up for grabs and gave Brandon a chance, Brandon just made an unbelievable catch, then he went another 18 yards and carried four guys on his back that's when he momentum swung again, l could feel it, l saw it in the eyes of the guys on he sidelines, I told Gino just to take care of the ball and we would kick the held goal."

With Shaw getting the first down, the Cougars saw an 11-yard rush by Josh Miguel on a quick pitch on the next play for another first down. That was followed by a few more rushing plays, by Miguel and Adrian Cortes, the last one by Cortes going up the middle to put the ball in good position for the field goal attempt.

Though two extra point attempts had already gone awry on the night, Loureiro said he didn't even think of doing anything else when decision time came.

"Schetti's been solid all year," he said of his junior QB and kicker. Those two missed extra points, the ball slipped off the tee on the first one and we did a terrible job blocking on the second one." With that in mind, Loureiro said there was "no doubt" he was sending Franceschetti out for the field goal try.

Everything had to work, though, from the long snap by Victor Carrillo, the hold by Shaw, the kick by Franceschetti. It did work, and on a 24-yard held goal, the ball split the uprights and put the Cougars on top, 22-20 with 31 seconds to play.

(Courtesy of the Escalon Times)