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Tough night for Montgomery after field named for coach


In a perfect world, in which 33 years of loyal service carries an overwhelming cachet of unstoppable momentum, Jason Franci and Montgomery don't lose Friday night. In a perfect world the unveiling of Jason Franci Field would leave the Vikings untouchable, unbeatable, because who wants to stop the adoration the fans and ex-players have for Montgomery's coach. It should continue right into the Casa game, become the 12th man on the field for the Vikings.

If this was a movie, that's how it would play out.

Friday night, however, wasn't a movie. Unless you consider it "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Casa Grande mowed down Montgomery, 49-19, and Casa could have scored 60, maybe 70 points. But Casa coach Trent Herzog played a lot of his second team in the second half, including in the fourth quarter when a running clock was in place.

"I have great respect for the man," Herzog said. "When I was younger I coached with him for 15 summers. He always has been about the kids. He always had the right perspective. This is bittersweet for me because I'll never coach against him again. But I feel so fortunate to be part of this night."

Franci would have felt the same kind of good fortune if his team had put up a tough fight. It was 21-7 at the end of the first quarter, 42-7 by the halftime as Montgomery (1-3) gained just 11 yards by halftime. Asked if he takes losses as hard now as he did 33 years ago, Franci said it depends.

"If we play halfway decent," Franci said, "it doesn't bother me. But if we lose and play like this, it does bother me. We are not very big. We are not very fast. And we are not very smart. That's not a good combination."

To be fair, Casa, now 3-1, is not your garden variety football team either. The Gauchos can move the ball, play physical and have more than one threat on offense. Quarterback JaJuan Lawson only threw nine passes but two were for touchdowns, 58 and 11 yards to Jarred Roberts. Lawson was 7 of 9 for 92 yards, not stop-traffic numbers but then again, Lawson didn't need to stop traffic. He had his teammates for that.

Montgomery quarterback Chris Hester was sacked six times. When he wasn't sacked, Hester hurried his passes, many times throwing off balance and the result was predictable. He was intercepted twice. Didn't help either that the Vikings dropped six passes. Didn't help either that the Vikings had a punt blocked and misplayed a lateral that was recovered by Casa.

Didn't help that the Vikings didn't have their two best wide receivers. Etienne Ezeff (ankle) and Justin Eatmon (ankle) both missed the game.

Didn't help either that the Gauchos' 260-pound fullback and nose tackle, Elijah Qualls, pretty much did as he pleased. Qualls ran only eight times, but gained 110 yards and scored on touchdowns of 18 and 43 yards.

Herzog said it was Casa's best all-around game of the year. He said the Gauchos played as well in their first half against Eureka but didn't sustain it as they did Friday night. All of which pleased him.

Franci? Not so much.

"It's embarrassing," Franci said. "The first half was completely embarrassing. I'm going to have to change some personnel."

Franci didn't have to return this season. His legacy is well-established.

"But I wanted to get the program back on track," he said.

Is it?

"I'm glad I came back," Franci said. "I love these kids. I love being around them."

Because, frankly, the Vikings do one thing and they do it very well, and this thing, well, it's all Franci wants out of his players.

"They play hard," Franci said. "That's what I wanted and that's what I got."

As intense as a coach can be, and demanding and vocal as anyone on any sideline can be, Franci in his way let his team know after the game that it was time to move on.

"I won't be at the 9 a.m. team meeting tomorrow," Franci said. "I've got to get a pedicure for the (school's) Hall of Fame dinner tomorrow night."

Franci raised his left leg to show a foot that sure as heck won't be getting a pedicure. The players laughed. The coaches laughed. Franci laughed. Life goes on. Even after a 30-point defeat. Jason Franci didn't get to be a legend by climbing into a hole and covering himself with dirt after a lopsided defeat.

(You can reach Staff Columnist Bob Padecky at 521-5223 or bob.padecky@pressdemocrat.com.)