Casa Grande football dominates Sonoma, puts 0-4 start in rearview mirror

A lot can change in a month. The Casa Grande Gauchos, for example, used to be 0-4.

Well, they’re not anymore — not even close.

The Gauchos, rather, have taken full advantage of the fresh start that league play provides. Their winless record has vanished, replaced by a 2-1 mark in the brand new Vine Valley Athletic League after their lopsided 40-7 win over Sonoma on Friday.

Casa Grande had its share of big plays on offense, but defense and special teams initiated the rout. Lineman Matthew Murphy had the type of quarterback sack defenders dream of on Sonoma’s first possession, forcing a punt.

Sonoma mishandled the snap on their next punt and the Casa Grande made a swift tackle, setting the Gauchos up for their first touchdown.

But Murphy’s sack set the tone for the night. The Gauchos were not to be denied.

“We just worked together. We played as a family. We’re all brothers,” Murphy said.

One of Murphy’s brothers, running back Matt Herrera, had 66 hard-earned yards on 13 carries. He had the Gauchos’ first touchdown of the evening, on a red zone run following Sonoma’s punting miscue.

“We just had to put the pressure on them and go all out,” Herrera said.

The Gauchos continued to apply pressure, even as they piled on the points. Up 19-0 at halftime after a short touchdown run from Jack Green and a picturesque, high arching TD throw from quarterback Jadon Bosarge to Dominic Mchale, the Gauchos came out firing in the second half.

Bosarge found Jordan Gramajo for a long gain to begin the third quarter, setting up another Herrera touchdown run. A second touchdown toss from Bosarge, this time to Carson Kerrigan, was followed up by a 65-yard scamper from the Gauchos’ signal caller. Bosarge’s TD run made the score 40-0 toward the end of the third quarter, putting the game away.

Bosarge draws inspiration from Casa Grande’s run to the playoffs last season after a 0-6 start. More than anything, however, he wanted this game.

“Senior [year] homecoming, that’s a must-win game. And we got the job done here tonight,” said Bosarge.

The win also opens new doors for the Gauchos. At 2-1 in league action under coach Denis Brunk with three games left to play, Casa Grande can finish their first season in the VVAL with a winning record.

That’s a far cry from being 0-4.

“It’s great that we were able to pull it together as a team,” Herrera said. “And it’s just really good to celebrate this win.”

Casa Grande football has another rough outing, loses to Maria Carrillo 41-7

Casa Grande fell to Maria Carrillo 41-7 Friday in another disappointing night at home. The loss dropped the Gauchos’ record to 0-4 before they hit the Vine Valley Athletic League circuit.

Turnovers and porous run defense did the Gauchos in, as Maria Carrillo had 262 yards rushing out of their misdirection-based offense. Casa Grande had five turnovers — including four interceptions. All of those miscues occurred after Casa pulled to within seven points of the Pumas in the second quarter.

Casa Grande went three and out in its first drive of the game, and Maria Carrillo answered with an excruciatingly long scoring march. They converted two fourth-down plays on the way to a six-yard touchdown run by running back Tyler Van Arden.

The Gauchos yielded another Van Arden score in the first quarter, this time a 20-yard run up the middle. The Pumas led 14-0 just 10 minutes into the game. But Casa Grande’s Dominic Mchale answered with a slick kickoff return that put his team at the Maria Carrillo 40-yard line.

Tough running by Alex Johnson and a first-down catch by wide receiver Nate Busse moved Casa Grande to the Pumas’ 15-yard line. Quarterback Miguel Robertson misfired on third and seven play, but he didn’t miss when coach Denis Brunk decided to go for it on fourth down. Mchale adjusted in the air to beat his defender in the right corner of the end zone for a touchdown.

Trailing just 14-7, Casa Grande stopped Maria Carrillo from scoring again after a long drive. Strong tackling by Jordan Gramajo, Aaron Krupinsky and Jack Green helped to complete a goal-line stand. The Gauchos had the ball again but at their own 1-yard line.

Casa had little trouble getting out from under the shadow of their own goalpost, thanks to a Robertson to Gramajo connection and a 16-yard run by Johnson. Momentum seemed to be shifting.

But then disaster struck the Gauchos. Puma lineman Jackson Petty batted a first down pass from Roberson high into the air and intercepted the ball. Maria Carrillo was in business once again, this time at the Gaucho 24-yard line.

Casa Grande’s defense forced a fourth-and-six try by the visitors, but Van Arden converted. Hard hitting defense by Cole Shimek and Gramajo couldn’t stop Puma QB K.C. Kelly from tossing a third down score on a rollout to the right. Maria Carrillo missed the extra point but led 20-7 with 4:16 left in the half.

Robertson led the Gauchos on another drive–fueled by Johnson and wide receiver Rashad Nixon–and almost closed the scoring gap. A missed connection to Mchale in the end zone and a sack by the Pumas ended the opportunity, however.

To make matters worse, Maria Carrillo connected on a 52-yard touchdown pass with mere seconds remaining in the first half. The Gauchos hit the locker room down 28-7.

But Casa Grande got a chance to put a dent in the Pumas lead to begin the third quarter after a fumble recovery by Jadon Bosarge.

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The Gauchos worked the ball down to Maria Carrillo’s 6-yard line but were pushed back by two consecutive QB sacks. Robertson ended up being intercepted in the end zone on a fourth and goal throw from the 15-yard line.

The Pumas needed just two rushing attempts to notch another touchdown, with Van Arden converting on a 67-yard jaunt. Casa trailed 34-7 with 6:48 left in the third quarter.

A try for a touchdown pass from 32-yards out by Robertson resulted in another interception in the end zone. The defense didn’t give up though. Tackles by Shimek, Logan Walsh, Carson Kerrigan and Zach Odetto forced a Puma punt, which was shanked.

Hard running by Matt Herrera helped push Casa to midfield. Robertson connected with Shimek to convert a fourth and long.

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The Gauchos drove all the way to the 6-yard line, but their hopes were dashed when Maria Carrillo intercepted the ball on a third-down play, taking it 94-yards for a touchdown. The play ended the scoring for both teams.

The Gauchos assembled on their field after the loss and took accountability for their 0-4 record. They know the majority of the season remains.

“Mostly [we were] just saying that it’s pretty much all on the players and that we just need to come together and figure it out,” Busse said.

They’ll get their next shot on September 14 in Casa Grande’s Vine Valley Athletic League home opener against Justin-Sienna of Napa.

*photo credits: Tony Campbell (campbellsportsphoto.smugmug)

Ex-Petaluma High coach Steve Ellison says new Ellison Field is ‘a jewel of a facility now’

Petaluma High School’s newly refurbished Ellison Field hosted its first football game since its extensive makeover, and before Friday’s game, there was one particularly interested observer.

It was Steve Ellison. Former head coach of the Trojans and the facility’s namesake.

He made his way to the new artificial turf, complete with end zones filled in with the school’s color, purple, with the look of a man who just landed on the moon. He had seen the place before but never like this.

Ellison eventually found Trojan coach Rick Krist. The two shared a word in the middle of the pristine playing surface.

“I said ‘I’m in awe.’ I mean, I’ve seen the field but I haven’t seen it with everybody here,” Ellison said. “I’m thrilled to see it.”

Ellison spent 31 seasons as Petaluma’s head man, compiling a 204-126-7 record according to John Jackson of the Petaluma Argus-Courier. His last season on the sidelines was 2009, when his team posted a 12-1 record, won the Sonoma County League championship and reached the North Coast Section semifinals. 

Almost a decade later, the field where Ellison made so many memories is not just a place the Trojans are proud to call home. It’s a facility the whole city, or at least the west side of town, can be proud of.

“It’s fantastic,” Ellison said. “It’s something that I always hoped we’d see someday. I think we’ve gone from a cozy facility to really, a jewel of a facility now. It’s beautiful. Everything about it. The field’s great, the whole surrounding area, it’s just fantastic. And I think it really speaks well for the Petaluma city schools, and Petaluma High School and Petaluma football, and all the other sports, lacrosse and soccer. I’m thrilled with it.”

Ellison has countless fond recollections of the old, natural grass field that would get markedly worse as the football season wore on. There was a reason for the renovation, after all. “They’re all great memories. Nothing changes it. Some of the great memories were probably because of the field and the way it was. You know the conditions weren’t perfect, but we never let it stop us,” Ellison said.

The Trojans couldn’t be stopped in the inaugural game at new Ellison Field either. They beat Terra Linda 21-7 behind two touchdowns from running back Garrett Freitas.

And with that, a new era of Petaluma High School football has begun — one that links the Trojans’ past with its present. Their home is no longer an old field with a new name. It’s a new field with the proper name. And those purple end zones really pop.

“I love this place,” Ellison said. “So now to see it dressed up, it’s really special.”

Casa Grande falls flat in home opener, loses to Montgomery 35-7

Casa Grande couldn’t contain Montgomery’s passing attack early and failed to slow the Vikings’ run game throughout their home opener. The Gauchos allowed 28 points before their offense got on the board and lost 35-7 Friday.

“We’re not a good football team right now,” Gauchos coach Denis Brunk said. “It’s a great group of young men, but they have to figure out blocking and tackling. Until they figure that out, we’ll continue to lose.”

The Vikings amassed 499 yards in total offense, and 297 of those yards came on the ground. Kham Perkins had 137 yards on 13 carries, including a 76-yard touchdown romp in the third quarter.

Casa Grande finished with just 192 yards from scrimmage. The lone bright spot for the Gauchos, apart from a fourth-quarter touchdown pass from QB Jadon Bosarge to Cole Shimek, was wide receiver Dominic Mchale’s 70-yard kickoff return. The Gauchos failed to turn Mchale’s third quarter effort into points, however, and that wasn’t the only time the offense stalled in the red zone.

Casa Grande had the game’s first possession and went three and out, almost turning the ball over on a high snap to the punter. Montgomery went deep on their first third-down chance of the evening and connected. Quarterback Cole Hallin found B.J. Johnson for a 54-yard touchdown pass to take a 7-0 lead.

The Gauchos failed to move the ball their second drive of the game as well but forced a Montgomery punt on the ensuing possession. Faced with 4th and 2 near midfield, the Gauchos rolled the dice and came up empty as Bosarge was sacked. The Gauchos were 2-6 on fourth down on the evening.

Hallin tossed a 53-yard score to Devin Ramirez after the turnover on downs, and Casa Grande was in a 14-point hole in the first quarter. The Vikings relied on the running game the rest of the way to keep the Gauchos at a distance.

Still, Casa Grande had a chance to tighten the score near the end of the half, but they missed on two straight pass plays from the Montgomery 11-yard line. The drive was helped along by Viking miscues — they had 14 penalties for 115 yards.

More effective running by the Vikings culminated in a one-yard touchdown tote by Hallin in the third quarter, setting up Mchale’s return to Montgomery’s 17-yard line. Once again, the Gauchos missed connections on two pass plays to end their red zone opportunity. The score still sat at 21-0.

But a nice pass-break-up by Casa Grande’s Zac Register forced another Viking punt. The Gauchos drove to the Montgomery 12-yard line, aided by tough running from Julian Gaona and more penalties on the visitors. The Gauchos’ offense stalled, and Brunk opted this time for a field goal try by Ian McKissick. The 29-yard attempt fell just short.

Practical hopes for Gauchos fans came to an end as the third quarter buzzer sounded — Perkins ran 76 yards for a touchdown as time expired. It was 3rd and 6 play for the Vikings, and Casa Grande blitzed right by the runner and couldn’t catch up until he was in the end zone.

The Gauchos didn’t give up though and scored after a 65-yard drive. Bosarge evaded the defense for a new set of downs on a 3rd and 11 play and finished the march with his nine-yard pass to Shimek.

Down 28-7 with 9:49 left to play, the Gauchos defense allowed another score on a 33-yard run by Montgomery running back Jevon Heard, sealing their fate.

“The defense, we couldn’t hold the edge. Offense, we couldn’t catch footballs. We couldn’t do our assignments on run blocks. We were just a mess,” Brunk said. “On both sides of the ball.”

The Gauchos got off to a 0-6 start a season ago, and Brunk told his team that’s where they’re headed unless they renew their focus. “I challenged them. I said ‘do you want to go 0-10?’ If you want to win some football games, let’s make some changes.”

Changes start in practice, and Brunk plans on teaching his pupils some of the basics.

“Football knowledge,” Brunk said.” [We’ll] try to teach kids more football knowledge. We lack that right now.”

Petaluma High School football’s Garrett Freitas vaults Trojans past Montgomery, again

Freitas intercepted Montgomery twice in the end zone and provided the game’s turning point — a 61-yard touchdown run in the third quarter of Petaluma’s 21-7 win

Petaluma High School beat Montgomery of Santa Rosa to open its football season for the second year in a row, and just like last time, Petaluma’s Garrett Freitas stole the show.

He did so in a completely different way, however.

He intercepted Montgomery twice in the end zone and provided the game’s turning point — a 61-yard touchdown run in the third quarter of Petaluma’s 21-7 win.

Freitas scored two touchdowns on kick returns a season ago to lift his team to a 55-42 win over the Vikings. He said this year’s triumph had its own feel.

“Very different. I feel like it was a lot more intense, emotions were a little higher. It felt hard-hitting. They were after us for sure, they wanted last year’s game back,” Freitas said.

During the first half of play, it appeared Montgomery would get its revenge. But the Trojans were able to regroup, in large part because of Freitas’ interception in the end zone late in the second quarter. The play left Petaluma down just seven points, and halftime adjustments proved valuable.

“The whole first half, they were blitzing the “A” gaps,” Freitas said. “After we picked that up at halftime, we made the adjustment and [the] outside was wide open,” Freitas said.

Freitas’ 61-yard jaunt came on a 3rd-and-1 toss play, and it electrified the Trojan sideline.

“That got us pumped up, that was amazing,” lineman Nick Siembieda said. “The o-line saw that and we were like ‘I think we can do this the whole game.’”

Petaluma scored two more times — both on run plays in goal-to-go situations. Freitas closed the door on Montgomery’s last scoring chance with another interception in the fourth quarter.

“I went up to press [the wide receiver], he said some words to me, like, ‘you don’t want to do this’ so I backed up off of him. One of the kids on the [Montgomery] sideline yelled, ‘go up and get it,’” said Freitas, who actually did go up and get it. His back landed in the end zone for a touchback, all but ending the Vikings’ hopes.

Freitas appears improved on defense, but last season’s Sonoma County League Back of the Year’s scintillating running style acts as a catalyst for his team.

“Great feeling. So much energy,” Freitas said of his score. “I love it, not because of myself, but it gets the whole team going. Everyone picks up the momentum from that and it just turns the game around.”

Freitas provided the lift his team needed in their season opener once again. The only difference was how he did it. The 2018 campaign is just underway, and Trojan fans must be waiting to see what he does next.