The inaugural “Vaca Bowl” between historic rivals Escalon and Hilmar got off to an explosive start at Modesto Junior College, Escalon’s temporary home field. The Escalon Cougars stunned the Yellowjackets 49-21, capping off an already big week for Escalon coach Andrew Beam, whose son was born earlier this week.
“In my opinion, there’s not another rivalry like this in this area,” said Beam. “71 match-ups, it's 36-34-1…you’re not going to find anything else as close as that. it’s fitting that we have a trophy, that we make it a true rivalry game.”
The Cougars controlled the field from the start with Joshua Graham sprinting 72 yards to score on the game's second play. Minutes later, Jamin Miller, who described the Cougar’s style as “play hard, go fast,” caught a pass to bring the score to 14-0.
Hilmar’s Caden Bailey answered with a touchdown of his own, but the Cougar’s could not be stopped. Escalon’s Ryan Lewis scored to end the quarter at 21-7.
The Cougars continued to assert their dominance in the second quarter. Two minutes in, Escalon’s Sam Jimenez intercepted a would-be Hilmar touchdown at the goal line and Talan Reider followed it up with an incredible 80-yard touchdown run.
Logan Cardoso briefly narrowed the gap to 14 points, but Jimenez, having a standout night, scored to close the half Escalon 34, Hilmar 14.
Escalon shut out the Yellowjackets in the third and turned the gap into a chasm with touchdowns from Miller and Nico Franzia and a successful two-point conversion from Jimenez, the game finished under a running clock.
While Bailey scored the lone touchdown of the fourth quarter, the Cougars finished the game in victory formation and took possession of the “Vaca Bowl” trophy, a gleaming silver milk can.
“It’s surreal,” said Miller on the win. “It was a great game. We knew that no lead is too comfortable…so we just had to keep moving forward.”
“I think we were able to keep Hilmar off balance in a way that we haven’t done in a long time,” reflected Beam, who was excited about the “big-time” catches made by Jimenez and Lewis.
And there’s more excitement on the way for the Cougars. Not only is next week Homecoming, but it will also be their first actual home game of the year on the newly renovated Engel Field.
“I think there’s gonna be a lot of excitement, I think there’s gonna be a lot of distractions,” said Beam. Miller acknowledged the charged atmosphere of the coming week as well, “We need to keep our composure and we gotta stay solid. If we can just stay solid, we’re gonna do good.”
Samantha Schmidt is a freelance photographer and reporter with FrontRowPreps.com. Her work has also been featured in the Turlock Journal and other Central Valley publications.