ESCALON — When Andrew Beam was picked to replace legendary coach Mark Loureiro at Escalon High, the former Cougar quarterback promised dramatic changes to the offense.
Under Loureiro, the Sac-Joaquin Section’s all-time winningest coach, Escalon pummeled teams with an old-school run-heavy offense — the Wing-T.
The Cougars rarely threw.
Instead, they choose to control game clock and chew up the middle of the field, moving the pile three to four yards at a time. Escalon took the scenic route to 15 Trans-Valley League titles, eight section banners and one CIF State championship under Loureiro.
His successor wasn’t going to abandon the Wing-T. Beam simply wanted to spice up the offense with plays down the field, utilizing second-year starter Lucca Dutra.
Through eight weeks, No. 2 Escalon looked very much like the team’s of old, climbing to the top of the small-school poll with heavy doses of running backs Luke Anderson, Colton Panero and Kaden Christensen.
And then it happened.
Beam took the restraints off Dutra in a 42-0 victory over Livingston. Dutra completed 14 of 18 passes for 222 yards and four touchdowns a historic performance for one of the top small-school programs in the state.
"I was excited to start throwing the ball," Dutra said. "We've been talking about it this whole year. ... For the first eight weeks, we got a good line and our fullback is a monster. We were just pounding it on teams. That's what we grew up doing; that's what was working. We got to get the throwing side of the ball going."
Dutra is the Panelli Passing Academy Top Gun award winner, presented by Golden Bear Physical Therapy.
“We had the mindset to work on our passing game a little bit in a game situation,” Beam said. “For us to do anything in the playoffs, we got to throw it a little bit. We worked on different route concepts over the last couple of weeks and we finally felt comfortable enough to use them.”
Dutra tied Spencer Franceschetti’s mark for most touchdown passes in a single game in the MaxPreps era. Franceschetti threw four touchdowns in a game twice during the 2008-09 season.
Beam said Dutra was dialed in. He set career highs for completions, yards and TD passes, and his 18 attempts were the most since the season opener at Union Mine (20).
“He moved around well in the pocket; better than I’ve seen him do so far this season,” Beam said. “He did a nice job of putting the ball in spots for our guys to catch it. He made all the throws — streak, hitch, slant and arrow.”
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