Thursday, December 23, 2010

Yes, We Did! Escalon Claims State Football Championship
By Marg Jackson, Escalon Times

Leaping in exultation, arms raised in victory, Escalon varsity football players rush off the field in Carson, California toward the fans in the stands cheering them on as they claimed the California Interscholastic Federation State Division III football championship on Saturday. The Cougars defeated Madison of San Diego, 30-14, to claim the sportís top prize.

From the triple digits of mid-June's Wing T camp to the pouring rain of mid-December's football finale, the 2010 Escalon Cougars were a team of destiny, bringing home the California Interscholastic Federation Division III State Championship.

Against a highly touted Madison Warhawks team out of San Diego, the three touchdown-underdog Cougars turned the tables and floated off the field at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California with a 30-14 victory on a soggy Saturday afternoon, finishing the season at 14-1.

The raucous Cougar faithful rocked the stadium, their deafening roar far outshining the smaller Madison crowd, and the football team played off that energy, taking control of the contest with three touchdowns in the second quarter to take a 23-7 lead at the half. Back at home, most of the people that didn't make the five hour-plus trek south were watching the game live, at local establishments, in private homes and in 'Super Bowl' type gatherings that joined the community together.

For the players and coaches on the field, the final score was indicative of what this year's team so enjoyed doing - proving the naysayers wrong.

"It's amazing. No one expected us to do anything this year and now we're number one in the state for Division three and it's just crazy," said junior Tony Vincent. "We'd been praying for rain because they're (Madison) such a passing team and we just ran down their throats and just did what we needed to do."

A first quarter safety, three touchdowns in the second quarter to Madison's one and a trading of touchdowns in the fourth quarter propelled Escalon to the victory stand once again. Head coach Mark Loureiro said the community support was overwhelming, with people making donations to help with costs for the trip, along with giving the team a huge send off early Friday morning and an even bigger reception when the team bus pulled back into the school parking lot as champions on Saturday night.

"We were the tiniest town in this thing and we had the most support, that's a great thing to say for our community, people really came through ... they came out of the woodwork," said Loureiro. "When you get this kind of support from everybody, it gives you a lift. We knew it (crowd support) was coming, we just didn't know it was coming in droves."

Loureiro said they "brought the country to the city" and came away with the biggest prize of all, the state championship.

"This isn't just about this year's team," the coach added. "These boys, they were the chosen ones, they were the ones asked to deliver, but this is for 22 years of hard work, dedication from a lot of coaches and a lot of great players, for all those kids that have come through this program."

Loureiro told the team in the locker room that there were many players with them on the field, all those that have come before, all the number 58s of the past, all the number 16s, were there in spirit.

"Every kid who wore their jersey number, they were in their heart, they were in their mind," Loureiro said of the history that took the field with the players.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Cougars Top Madison For State Title

Quarterback Gino Franceschetti is under center, ready to take the snap from Dylan Cathcart as the Cougars go on a scoring drive in second quarter action on the way to a 30-14 victory in the stateís Division III championship game.

Workhorses Adrian Cortes and Josh Miguel piled up more than 200 muddy, slippery yards between them and quarterback Gino Franceschetti completed 3-of-4 pass attempts, including one for a touchdown, as the Escalon Cougars washed away the Madison Warhawks in a decisive 30-14 victory on Saturday, Dec. 18 to claim the Division III football State Championship.

Rain that fell intermittently in the morning at the Home Depot Center in Carson developed into a steady rain midway through the first quarter and, except for a few occasional breaks, continued to pour down on the contest as the Warhawks and Cougars battled it out for the state's highest high school football honor.

The rain played into the hands of the Cougars, who had more experience playing in adverse conditions than their Southern California (San Diego) counterparts, and the tenacious Escalon defense forced the Warhawks to scramble, upsetting their rhythm and resulting in a victory for the North over the South in the season's final game.

Escalon was the first public school from the Northern Section to be invited to the state championship game and, as head coach Mark Loureiro noted, had many other small school teams with them in spirit as they took the field.

"We had a lot of fans up there in Northern California rooting for us," he said following the victory. "Sure, it's win for our team and our community but this is also for those small school teams that thought they never had a chance ... this shows that through hard work and dedication, everybody's got hope and a chance."

Madison came in a three-touchdown favorite, an athletic, skilled team that had won its previous playoff contests by wide margins. Primarily a passing team, they were frustrated on offense. That had more to do with Escalon than the weatherman, as the Warhawks were not able to get much going against a defense that recovered four fumbles, batted down several passes, had an interception and recorded multiple sacks on the afternoon.

"Credit our defense, our defense just played outstanding," said Loureiro. "We had a great four man rush in Nate Caton, Tony Vincent, Travis James and Shane Silveira, with Daniel Alcantor in there, we just got a good push up the field and then we mixed the blitzes in a few times, which is where we got our sacks.

"We slammed their running game down and made the team one dimensional."

Madison won the toss and elected to take the opening kickoff but, after one first down conversion, had to punt the ball away on the next series. Escalon drove in on their first possession and thought they had a touchdown but officials ruled Josh Miguel was stopped just short of the end zone. With the ball so close, the Cougars went for the score on the ensuing fourth down play rather than kick a field goal but the Madison defense held them out, taking over on downs inside the 5-yard line. But the ball carrier taken down in the end zone by Adrian Cortes put two points on the board for the Cougars, giving them a 2-0 lead in the first quarter.

Second quarter action saw a 6-yard run by Miguel good for the TD, although the Madison crowd wasn't convinced, as the ball fell from his hands. Miguel dove up and over a would-be tackler at the end of the run, the ball in his outstretched hand breaking the plane of the end zone and then coming loose as he came down. The play stood, the extra point was good and it was 9-0 Escalon.

The Warhawks answered back on their next possession, however, with a huge pass play going 40 yards for the score and the extra point good to trim the lead to 9-7. But as the rain started falling harder, the Cougars settled in to their smashmouth style, churning up the yards and making headway up the field, while Madison saw their offense sputter and stall.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Courtesy of the Escalon Times