CARSON, Calif. - Escalon
High School football coach Mark Loureiro looked up at the 1,500 or so fans who traveled 350 miles to the Home Depot Center, threw out his chest and gave an inspirational message.
"That's the heartbeat of America right there," Loureiro said. "The whole city of Escalon came down to support these boys. It's a sea of purple and gold up there."
For the previous two hours it was a water way of purple and gold on the field as well as Escalon sloshed through the rainy conditions to a 30-14 victory over Madison (San Diego)
in the CIF Division III Bowl Championship game Saturday.
Utilizing a bullish running game, timely play by quarterback Gino Franseschetti and a two touchdown spurt in the final minute of the first half, the Cougars (14-1) pretty much dominated the favored San Diego Section champions.
Adrian Cortes rushed for 103 yards, Josh Miguel added 93 yards and two scores and Franceschetti accounted for two more scores as Escalon held the ball almost twice as long as Madison (31:04 to 16:56), which appeared utterly uncomfortable in the wet conditions.
The Warhawks (12-2) turned the ball over five times, including four (three recovered by Escalon) by quarterback Chase Knox, who also threw an interception. Knox, who completed 13 of 30 for 189 yards and two touchdowns, had not fumbled all season and had just three interceptions.
Knox, a 6-foot-1, 175-pound junior, said Madison hadn't played under wet conditions all season.
"We didn't adjust very well to it," Knox said. "(Escalon) was obviously playing on the same field and in the same conditions, and it didn't seem like it effected them. They are definitely a good team, but I'd love to start next season and play them again."
Miguel, who scored on almost identical runs of 6 and 9 yards to the right pylon in the second quarter, isn't thinking ahead. He and the Cougars were utterly in the moment from the opening kickoff to slip-and-sliding on the Home Depot floor in celebration after the game.
"This is for the city of Escalon," Miguel said of the small city of 7,000 located between Stockton and Modesto. "They've been there for us every step of the way. This is what it's all about."
Miguel said this was the best week of practice of the season for his team. "And it sure didn't hurt that the weather Gods helped us out," he said.
Escalon doesn't get a lot more rain than San Diego (12 inches a year to 10.3), but indeed the run-oriented Cougars are built to handle the wet conditions better than Madison.
"I had a switch in my pocket," Loureiro joked. "Everytime we got the ball I turned (the rain) off and every time they got it I turned it back on."
It wasn't a real light-hearted topic among the Warhawks.
"The conditions made it very difficult to play our game," Madison coach Rich Jackson said. "It effected our ability to stretch the field and for our athletes to run routes.
could tell (Escalon) had played in these conditions. Beyond that, they
were very physical and obviously they took care of the ball."
After a safety and Miguel's first touchdown, Madison had its last real glimmer of hope when Kevon Mitchell took an medium-range pass from Knox, followed his blockers splendidly down field and then did a swan dive into the end zone, completing a 40-yard touchdown, cutting the lead to 9-7 with 7:37 left in the second quarter.
But then came the pivotal point of the game, when Knox was sacked and fumbled and Tony Vincent recovered at the Escalon 33. Following a 23-yard completion to tight end Matt Roberson, Miguel sprinted around the right edge and dove just inside the pylon, making it 16-7 with 50 seconds left in the half.
The Cougars weren't done.
A 10-yard completion to Jeremy Hutchison was fumbled, Escalon recovered at its own 47 and Brandon Shaw delivered the play of the game.
Franceschetti avoided heavy pressure and lofted a high pass that Shaw had to come back for and make the catch at the 15. He zig-zagged the final distance, somehow avoiding three tacklers and into the end zone, giving Escalon a commanding 23-7 lead into halftime.
"Nothing was going to deny (Shaw)," Miguel said. "He would have carried their whole team on his back."
And nothing would deny the Cougars, who were picked as the Northern California representatives over Cardinal Newman in a decision that was hotly debated.
"Tell all the people in Santa Rosa we deserved to be here," Loureiro said. "We deserved to be here and we delivered." Escalon 30, Madison 14
Escalon 2 21 0 7 - 30
Madison 0 7 0 7 - 14First quarter
E - Safety, Hutchinson tackled in end zone, 1:09Second quarter
E - Miguel 6 run (Franseschetti kick), 8:51
M - Mitchell 50 pass from Knox (Esser kick), 7:37
E - Miguel 9 run (Fransechetti kick), 0:50
E - Shaw 42 pass from Franceschtti (Franceschetti kick), 0:12Fourth quarter
E - Franceschetti 6 run (Franceschetti kick), 3:21
E - Woodson 13 pass from Knox (Esser kick), 0:44Team statistics
First downs: E 16, M 12
Rushes-yards: E 56-216, M 19-29
Passing: E 3-4-0-89, M 14-31-1-189
Total yards: E 305, M 218
Fumbles-lost: E 4-2, M 6-4
Penalties: E 3-24, M 10-61
Time of possession: E 31:04, M 16:56Individual statisticsRushing
E: Cortes 21-103, Miguel 25-93, Franseschetti 8-22, Hill 1-0, Team 1-(-2). M: Sanders 4-32, Hardwick 8-25, Hutchinson 1-(-1), Knox 6-(-27). Passing
E: Franceschetti 3-4-0-89. M: Knox 13-30-1-189. Receiving
E: Shaw 1-42, Hill 1-24, Roberson 1-23. M: Hutchison 4-65, Mitchell 2-54, Woodson 3-43, Hardwick 2-15, Sanders 2-12. Tackles
E: Carrillo 7, Miguel 5, Vincent 5. M: Navarro 10, Johnson 10, Salahuddin 8, Johnson 8.