ESCALON — Escalon High football games should be shown on television in black and white.
It would be a fitting way to underscore the team-community relationship that somehow has survived nearly unscathed through decades of unfettered growth in nearly every other town.
But not Escalon.
The city was one of the first in the area to severely limit residential building permits, and as the small-town feel was preserved, Engel Field remained the place to be on five Friday nights each fall.
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"At home and on the road the stands are packed, and boys have sat up there and dreamed of stepping on the the field from the time they were 10 years old," said coach Mark Loureiro. "This town hasn't lost that passion yet, and while being in a single high school town makes that easier, what we have here is unique. You saw it in the '50s, '60s, and '70s but not now."
Under Loureiro, Escalon went 44-10 in the Trans-Valley League in the last decade, and counting non-league and playoff victories, went 104-20-1 with nine straight double-digit winning seasons.
"It's amazing to me where this thing has gone," Loureiro said. "Things like this just don't happen at public schools."
With the success, he said, a burden has emerged — the burden of high expectations. While young men in Escalon can't wait to pull on the helmet, they're told at every step — not by the coaches but by the brothers, cousins, fathers and uncles who played before them — that winning isn't an option, it's a necessity.
"I have to believe it's hard to play for a team like this because the expectations are so high," Loureiro said. "At the end of each year, the seniors pass the baton and I start wondering how it's going to be possible to fill the holes the seniors left.
"You worry every year, but every time you always have two or three kids who come out of nowhere. He's been in the program, but he's been invisible. But he's also the kid who follows the plan. He was in the weight room. He was there in the summer. He cares more now. He matured."
And in Escalon, in the fall, there is only one team and everybody gets involved. The parents host dinners for the players. The booster group takes pride in its tri-tip and linguica. And across the road from the football field, even the Covenant Church benefits, collecting parking fees from fans willing to pay for closer access to the field.
It's very much a small-town football phenomenon.
"You want to be a part of that," Louriero said.
Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2300.