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Falcons renew rivalry

Escalon hosts Colfax in small-school classic
By: Mike Ray Gold Country News Service
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The two towns are as different as night and day. One is enriched in dairy heavy agricultural land while the other is a bedroom foothills community that is the last major stop on I-80 between Sacramento and Truckee. But while Colfax and Escalon are separated by just over 100 miles and the make-up of the population somewhat different, if there’s one common thread that the town’s respective high schools have, it’s a penchant to produce winning football teams. Over the past 15 years, Escalon and Colfax have combined to record an astonishing 21 league championships between them and since 1986 have teamed for 11 more CIF Sac-Joaquin Section titles. Even more remarkable, according to Cal-Hi Sports- ESPN Rise, in the 2000s, Escalon (104-19, .827) and Colfax (88-18-1, .816) rank 14th and 15th respectively among California’s Top 20 winning programs in the state, all divisions inclusive. However, more in fact due to realignment, and despite the enrollment of the two schools annually being within 50 to 100 students of each other, Friday’s CIF Sac-Joaquin Div. IV semi-final playoff game in Escalon will mark the first meeting between the Falcons and Cougars since 1999. “It’s amazing that it’s been that long since we’ve played,” said longtime Escalon coach Mark Louriero. “Friday will be like the old days.” In his 22 seasons as Escalon’s head coach, Louriero has won over 200 games. His teams have reached the 10-win plateau 15 times. Meanwhile, Colfax coach Tonty Martello, now in his 15th season, isn’t far behind. Under his tutelage, the Falcons have produced 144 victories, and this season have reached the 10-win level for the 10th time in his career. A year ago, both Colfax and Escalon ran into the state title bound machine of Modesto Christian. Colfax being walloped by the Crusaders in the first round, Escalon falling to MC the next week in the quarter-finals. But a year later both the Cougars and Falcons have rebounded with championship seasons. For Escalon, the Cougars are using once again what’s become a recipe of their long-time success: a well-tuned wing-T offense and a hard-hitting defense. “They look very good on film,” said Colfax coach Tony Martello. “They have one of the best small school programs in the state. They don’t do a whole lot of fancy stuff, they just do what they do well.” While the Cougars don’t have a bona fide Div. I type threat like Modesto Christian’s Isaiah Burse was a year ago, Escalon still has plenty of weapons. Leading the way is junior all-purpose back Josh Miguel who has accounted for 33 touchdowns via rushes, punt and kick returns and interceptions on defense. “He’s a good one,” said Martello about Miguel. “He makes a lot happen for them on both sides of the ball.” Joining Miguel in helping make the Escalon ground game go is 5-10 190-pound fullback Adrian Cortes who has gained 885 yards and tallied nine touchdowns. Escalon’s air game isn’t has highly potent as Colfax’s but quarterback Gino Franceschetti is effective as the Cougar junior has hit on 40 of 75 passing attempts this season for 1,117 yards and 19 touchdowns. The top receiver for the Cougars is 6-2, 185-pound Brandon Shaw who has latched on to 20 passes for 602 yards, 12 going for TDs. On defense, other than a 22-15 loss to Div. III semi-finalist in Week 3, only one team has stayed within two touchdowns of the Cougars. In fact, over the last seven games Escalon is averaging 47 points a game scoring 329 points and allowing just 73. “We have a big challenge ahead of us,” said Martello. Friday’s Colfax-Escalon winner will meet the Div. IV A bracket winner between Union Mine and Calaveras. The championship game is set for Friday, Dec. 3 at 7:30 p.m. at Lincoln High in Stockton.