Casa Grande gets biggest win in school history
Casa Grande (Petaluma) has played in two CIF North Coast Section championship games, and lost both, so the Gauchos know about disappointment in a big game. So on Friday night, despite it not being for a section title, their 40-28 win over Cardinal Newman of Santa Rosa was an emotional victory for the Big House faithful and fifth-year head coach Trent Herzog.
It also secured a first North Bay League title for Casa Grande (10-0, 8-0) in only its second in the league after coming over from the Sonoma County League, and also continued the greatest record the Gauchos have ever had this late in the season.
“This is the happiest I’ve ever been as a coach,” said Herzog as he fought back tears. “We brought this home for the town of Petaluma. The greatest win in school history.”
As he has all season, Elite 11 invited quarterback JaJuan Lawson was superb. The 6-1, 195-pound senior with several solid D1 offers, passed for 170 yards and three TDs and ran for 116 yards as well. All three of his touchdown passes and 136 of Lawson’s passing yardage, plus 85 of his rushing yards came in a first half that saw the Gauchos take control. However, a lack of push up front slowed Casa’s ground game, and the visitors only led 20-14 at halftime.
That all changed in the second half when Herzog and his staff made some adjustments and the Gauchos’ ground game got going.
After only gaining 17 yards on six carries in the first half against an undersized but determined Cardinal Newman defense, 6-1, 215 pound John Porchivina busted loose for two second half touchdowns and 103 of his 120 yards rushing. He also caught three passes for 34 yards and one score on a 9-yard pass from Lawson on the second play of the second quarter.
With respect to his slow start Porchivina remarked. “With Comcast and Channel 2, and radio and all the media, and playing for the the league championship, we were a little nervous at the beginning, but once we got going there was no stopping us.”
Lawson’s counterpart, and another Elite 11 invited quarterback, Keaton Dunsford of Newman, was 30-of-48 passing for 390 yards and two touchdowns, however he was sacked six times, intercepted three times and fumbled twice, although neither was a turnover.
Casa Grande senior linebacker and running back Cody Hughson had three of the sacks and also scored his team’s final TD on a 49-yard run.
The Gauchos are now assured of at least the No. 2 seed in the CIFNCS Division II playoffs, but at the party afterwards the Cal-Hi Sports Caravan was met with some jeers when we told the gathering not to be disappointed if they fall in at No. 2 behind Concord Clayton Valley.
After filing a short blurb for the San Francisco Chronicle, and before heading to the Gauchos’ victory party at Petaluma Applebee’s, we stopped by a dark, silent coaches office at Newman, where the staff was watching film of the game and talking about what could have been.
“We had opportunities to win this game but we didn’t execute,” said a sullen Newman head coach Paul Cronin. His team falls to 7-3 and 6-2 in league, and probably looks like a No. 4 or probably a No. 5 behind Sebastopol Analy in the NCS D3 playoffs, provided both Marin Catholic (Kentfield) and El Cerrito get wins on Saturday afternoon.