Hot wings: Escalon, Placer run similar offensive formation

By: Matthew Kimel, Journal sports editor
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When Placer and Escalon meet on the gridiron for the first time Friday night, it won’t be the first time Hillmen coach Joey Montoya and Cougars coach Mark Loureiro have run into each other. 
The two coaches, whose teams both operate out of a Wing-T offense, often see one another in the off-season when speaking about their specialized formation at camps.
“I remember Joey when he was assistant at Nevada Union and when he coached at Pioneer,” Loureiro said. “We both speak a lot at Wing-T clinics. We run into each other a lot. 
“… Six of us Wing-T guys, we got a cult. We hang together a couple of times a year.”
While No. 1 Placer (11-0) and eighth-seeded Escalon (9-2) have their own variations of the Wing-T, both teams have had success running this year and average more than 300 rushing yards per game. And when the two squads meet in Friday’s 7 p.m. sure-to-be-physical showdown at LeFebvre Stadium in the second round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Div. IV playoffs, both clubs are expecting to face a huge challenge on the defensive side of the ball in stopping the opposition’s ground game. 
“This is the best running team we’ve played all year,” Montoya said of the Escalon attack, which is led by fullback Nathan Chunn (1,858 yards and 29 touchdowns on 275 carries), an athletic 6-foot-1, 195-pound runner who is notorious for gaining yards after contact. 
“You look at their yards and their production and you watch them on film, it backs it up.” 
Loureiro and Montoya are both well aware of the differences in each other’s offensive approach.
“The Wing-T is the Wing-T but everybody’s got their own wrinkle,” Montoya said. “They really are more of a power Wing-T. They run the fullback. They’ve got an old-school approach.”
Said Loureiro: “Joey plays it at a higher tempo. He pushes the line of scrimmage a lot, a lot of formations and shifting with him. He’s always trying to get an advantage and misdirection.”
Loureiro, who is real familiar with Placer’s rich football history, believes the 2012 Hillmen might be the greatest team the school has ever fielded. 
He calls the Placer defense “beasts” and the 6-4, 305-pound Eddie Vanderdoes “a man child,” while adding the unit is full of “horses.” He also pits coming to Auburn Friday as one of the biggest challenges of his 23-year, storied coaching career.
Loureiro expects his team, which he said never gives up on him, to be ready. Nonetheless, he also acknowledged the Cougars will need to catch a couple of breaks throughout the contest against the top-seeded hosts.
“They had a three- or four-game stretch where they put the ball on the ground,” Loureiro said of the Hillmen. “But when they come to play, they’re real dialed in. They rise to play their competition. That win last week looked like it got them back on track. Some of those scores (in Pioneer Valley League games) shouldn’t have been as close as they were.”
The Hillmen lit up the scoreboard last week in their 59-3 rout of Hilmar, which plays in the same Trans Valley League as Escalon. 
Two-way Placer lineman Bryan Berube, an all-league selection, thinks the Hillmen offense got a spark last week by scoring early.
“A lot of people had doubt in our offense with four games scoring under 20 points,” Berube said. “Last week was awesome, it gives us confidence back. But there are always some mistakes on film and things we can do better.
“… In previous weeks a couple of teams stopped us early and it took our confidence away and it took us longer to score. When we needed to score we did. I think if we can get the ball in the end zone soon and quick, our defense can cause turnovers and we can carry momentum through the rest of the game.”
The winner of the Escalon-Placer game will take on either No. 5 Los Banos (10-1) or No. 4 Capital Christian (10-1). 
New jerseys
If the Hillmen’s jerseys look bright at the start of Friday’s game, don’t be fooled in thinking the team tried some new laundry detergent this week. 
On Thursday night after football practice, Placer was presented with new, more modern looking jerseys courtesy of Adidas. 
The new uniforms resemble Adidas’ college football jerseys, with the tight fit around the shoulder pads.