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Casa Grande breaks out late to defeat Montgomery

For three quarters, it looked like neither host Montgomery nor Casa Grande high school wanted to win their game Friday night.

Thirty-six minutes of lackluster football, multiple turnovers, confusion and ineffectual play had the nonleague rivals locked in a forgettable game, with Casa narrowly leading. Both teams were winless, though, so someone had to come out on top.

Casa finally took charge, outscoring the Vikings by 20 points in the final 12 minutes to win 32-10 and even its record at 1-1. Montgomery, last year's North Bay League-Redwood Division winners, is 0-2 in nonleague play.

“Two weeks of adversity for us, in different ways,” said Casa coach John Antonio, whose team lost to Windsor a week ago. “Tonight, the first half was turnover after turnover. We thought, ‘Is it ever going to start flowing?'”

It finally did in late in the game.

Running back Matt Herrera had a lot to do with that.

The 5-foot-7, 170-pound senior running back ran for 106 yards on the night, almost half of the Gauchos' 239 total rushing yards. When the Gauchos needed a short gain up the middle or a 20-yard tackle-breaking power run, Herrera provided.

“When you can run like that, it gives you confidence,” Antonio said.

Herrera praised the offensive line, which provided him several timely openings he was able to muscle through.

“We kind of started off slow, but we rallied together,” he said, noting the team's play was helped by a halftime discussion. “We said we can bring it back.”

Senior offensive lineman Jack Farris, who played only a few downs last week while healing from a shoulder injury, demonstrated his leadership at the half and steadied the squad, Antonio said.

“He brought a calmness to the team,” he said.

They needed it, after being decimated by sickness earlier in the week. Seventeen team members were out this week with some kind of flu bug, Antonio said. Most remained out Friday, including a couple who were sent home via Uber after getting sick on the bus ride from Petaluma.

Starting out so slowly didn't look good for Casa in the long haul.

But as it turns out, Montgomery was hurt worse by physical difficulties late in the game. By midway through the third quarter, several starters had to come out of the game with leg cramps.

Coach Vertis Patton felt confident coming out of the first half, despite his Vikings not playing as well as he'd hoped they would.

“We just weren't in sync,” he said.

Casa scored on its opening drive. Nine plays in, quarterback Miguel Robertson saw that wide receiver Dominic McHale had gotten ahead of his defender and hit him with a long pass, resulting in a 73-yard catch-and-run touchdown. Montgomery blocked the point-after attempt.

Midway through the second quarter, the Vikings got on the board, on a 12-yard Cole Hallin pass to Devin Ramirez, who made a sliding catch in the end zone.

Reese Martin's kick gave Montgomery a 7-6 lead.

Martin put the Vikings up 10-6 with a 27-yard field goal with 4:38 left in the third quarter.

The Vikings were searching for more with an onside kick attempt, which went the required 10 yards, but was grabbed by a Montgomery player before it bounced, resulting in a 15-yard penalty that gave Casa excellent field position.

It also spoiled some Vikings momentum.

On Casa's first play from scrimmage after the odd penalty, Dominic Giomi took a pitch from Robertson and ran down the left side of the field for a 43-yard Gauchos touchdown. A two-point conversion pass was incomplete, giving Casa a 12-10 lead.

“That onside kick call really took a lot out of us,” Patton said.

Casa added three more touchdowns - a 16-yard run from Giomi, a 4-yard run from Herrera and a one-yard score from Ryan Kasper with 2 minutes left. Milani kicked the extra point on Kasper's score to put Casa up by 22.

You can reach Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 707-521-5470.

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