Friday night's double overtime grudge match between nonleague adversaries had all the characters necessary for a drama of cinematic proportions: playmaking quarterbacks, defenses dueling and a stadium teeming with local football fans. It lived up to the hype on the field.
After two fourth-quarter lost fumbles by junior Damien Paulo, the Tigers' signal caller was the show-stopper when it mattered most, making amends for his gaffes with a pair of touchdown passes in OT for a 27-24 victory at a rocking Patterson Community Stadium.
The win also gives Patterson its first 4-0 start since 2007.
"Our kids picked it up, and said 'it's not over yet'," said Patterson coach Nick Marchy. "Our defense held strong. We made (Escalon) run eight plays in overtime. We ran three plays (in overtime) and scored (touchdowns) on two of them. They couldn't match up with us."
By rule, both teams were allowed the opportunity to score in the extra session. Each began a drive at the opposing team’s 10-yard line. The Cougars (2-2) won the overtime coin toss and elected to go on defense first.
On the first play of the possession, Paulo took the snap and immediately scrambled out to the right, where he patiently waited for an opportunity to find his favorite receiving target. He slung a pass to the back of the end zone, where senior Brandon Williams was waiting to catch the go-ahead score.
It was Escalon’s turn to try to cross the goal line.
Two straight running plays and an incomplete pass gained a total of six yards, bringing up fourth-and-goal at the 4-yard line. With the home crowd blaring from the bleachers, Escalon's Christian May took a toss sweep and sprinted around the left end for a touchdown.
With a fresh set of downs, the Cougars again lined up at the 10.
Patterson's defense held Escalon to two yards on three rushes, however, and Cougar’s kicker Thomas Diniz lined up for the 25-yard field-goal attempt. His kick sailed high into the evening air, tumbling end-over-end and splitting the uprights for the 24-21 advantage.
Still, the Tigers did not slip away quietly.
Two plays later, Paulo again rolled out to his right, where he found senior Avion Warmsley open. Warmsley leapt over his defender, pulling the ball in for an 8-yard game-winning score, and Patterson faithful rushed out onto the field and surrounded the players, who raised their helmets in celebration.
"It's crazy. It felt like everyone was doubting us before this game. We came into this game, and we were predicted to lose," Paulo said. "Winning in double overtime against a team like Escalon — teams in the (Western Athletic Conference) don't know what's coming for them."
With 9 minutes, 59 seconds left in the second quarter, Escalon quarterback Ben Hood's ill-advised pass under pressure was returned for a touchdown. Tigers' senior Jacob Gomez was able to get his hands up quickly when he intercepted Hood's attempt, and his 15-yard sprint to the end zone gave Patterson a 7-0 halftime lead.
On the opening possession of the second half, Paulo led Patterson's second scoring drive — a 56 yarder — that moved the chains on three consecutive plays, culminating with his 27-yard touchdown pass to senior Jordan Levu. Junior Alex Gebbing (3-for-3 on point after kicks) made good on his extra-point attempt for a 14-0 advantage.
About the only thing keeping Patterson in check was its own penchant for errors. The Tigers were penalized 14 times for 184 yards.
"We'll address the parts of our game where we're unfocused, undisciplined," Marchy said. "If we have those types of penalties against other teams, that could (cost us) a league championship or playoffs. We just need to keep playing football."
Escalon finally cracked the scoreboard with 4:28 left in the third quarter.
Back Frankie Bavaro took a Hood handoff, burst through the middle of the Patterson line, shedding defenders, for a 6-yard touchdown.
The local squad had the opportunity to extend its lead early in the fourth quarter. But after moving the ball to the Escalon 16-yard line, Patterson lost it on a botched exchange, and the Cougars recovered at their own 15 with 10:40 remaining.
Escalon stitched together a nearly seven-minute possession, capping a 14-play, 85-yard drive with a 5-yard touchdown toss. Facing 4th-and-goal from the Tigers 5 with 4:16 left in the final frame, the Cougars tied the contest when Hood threaded the needle on a touchdown pass to Zachary Withrow.
Patterson again answered with a long march, moving to the Escalon 35 before another fumble with 46 seconds left gave the visitors a chance to win in regulation.
A personal foul penalty helped Escalon move the ball to the Patterson 26, but with 8 seconds left a 42-yard field goal attempt by Diniz was batted down at the line of scrimmage, forcing overtime.
"There aren't many Patterson teams that start the season 4-0 — it means the world to us," Gomez said. "We're a well-oiled machine. If one of us goes down, another one of us will replace that spot. If we make mistakes, we make it up as a team."
The Tigers will continue their season at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 4, when they host Central Valley High of Ceres.
The JV Tigers have been grinding teams down lately with the running game, and Friday’s matchup with the Escalon Cougars was no exception.
Running back Michael Lawson followed up his 161-yard, two touchdown night last week with four more trips to the end zone, rushing for 188 yards on just 10 carries, and Patterson held off a late Cougars comeback to take a 27-21 victory at Patterson Community Stadium.
"I think that we're getting better each week," said Patterson coach Harley Parson. "We didn't have as many penalties as in other games, and we didn't have any turnovers. We aim to be mentally and physically better than everyone we play."
Look no further than Patterson's offensive line — Jerry Arredondo, Deamien Collins, Mark Lopez, Nicholaus Priester, Thomas Turner and Antonio Villarreal — to learn why the Tigers (4-0) were so successful against the rival Cougars.
"The offensive line has been a process for us — working with them, helping them make reads," Parson said. "We're trying to teach them 'this is what you do', and get them ready for the varsity level."
Lawson scored on the first offensive play for Patterson by racing 55 yards on a handoff for a 7-0 lead.
On the ensuing possession, while playing defense, Collins came up with a sack that forced the Cougars to punt on fourth down. Escalon gave the Tigers a gift when a bad snap went over the punter's head and Patterson's Tyler Wheeler helped recover the ball on the Cougar 9-yard line.
One play later, Lawson picked up his second touchdown of the contest, heading right before following blockers and cutting back to the left for the score to make it 13-0.
With 9:12 left before halftime, Escalon's quarterback pioneered a 12-play, 59-yard drive that ended with a 24-yard scoring toss, clipping the deficit to 13-7.
Forcing the Cougars to punt on the first series after the intermission, Patterson was set up with great field position thanks to a 45-yard punt return by Lawson.
The Tigers took just three plays to send Lawson plummeting across the goal line from eight yards out, set up by a 23-yard run by the swift sophomore, to make it 19-7.
Escalon answered with a nine-play, 58-yard drive that was capped by a 2-yard touchdown push to claw within 19-14.
The back-and-forth scoring continued.
Patterson marched 68 yards on two plays on its next possession of the game, capped by a 64-yard touchdown dash by Lawson with 9:49 remaining in the fourth. Lawson then scrambled right and into the end zone for the 2-point conversion.
The Cougars’ next opportunity came with about nine minutes left in the game. Following a 12-play series, Escalon bulled into the end zone from nine yards out, trimming the Tigers' edge to 27-21.
The Cougars seemingly set themselves up for a shot at victory when they took over possession at their own 26 with 3:30 left to play. But after driving to midfield, Patterson's defense came through with back-to-back sacks on Escalon's QB, first by Turner and then by Priester.
"It comes down to our kids wanted it more than they did'," Parson said. "That's a very good Escalon team. I'm very proud of my kids, and I'm glad that they're sticking with it."
Controlling the line of scrimmage and winning the turnover battle are usually the biggest keys in determining the outcome of a football game.
On the road Thursday, Sept. 19, the freshman Tigers did both.
After taking Escalon High's best shot, Patterson earned a decisive 19-8 victory over the Cougars at Memorial Stadium.
The Tigers (2-1) got on the scoreboard with an 8-yard catch by Tre McGill from Jonathan Pimentel, and Toby Silva's extra-point kick made it 7-0.
"The offensive line did good job and showed improved blocking," said Patterson coach Bill Chastain. "(Pimentel) was able to throw the ball tonight to various receivers in the passing game."
Still, the Cougars responded.
Following a busted play, Escalon's quarterback kept the ball to himself and ran clean through the Tigers' defense for a 50-yard touchdown. The 2-point conversion gave the Cougars an 8-7 lead.
Patterson answered with its own impressive possession, crossing the goal line on a 10-yard Silva TD grab.
Tiger Carlos Martel later intercepted a Cougar pass and returned it 25 yards to ignite the visiting crowd and swing the momentum permanently in favor of Patterson.
"Overall, the coaches were happy with this game," Chastain said. "The line-play improved, as well as, the passing game since the first two games of the season."
The Tigers will continue their season at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 3, when they travel to face Central Valley High of Ceres.
Contact Marc Aceves at 892-6187, ext. 28, or firstname.lastname@example.org.