Vine Valley Athletic League roundup: Casa Grande stuns Justin-Siena

A wild first Friday night of football in the historic opening of the Vine Valley Athletic League was punctuated by Casa Grande's 36-35 come-from-behind home victory over Justin-Siena of Napa. It was the first win of the season for the Gauchos.

The Gauchos (1-0, 1-4) trailed 35-28 with four minutes to play with the ball at their own 25-yard line. Casa Grande proceeded to march down the field and score with 16 seconds remaining on a 1-yard run off-tackle left by Jordan Gramjo to pull within a point. The Gauchos went for the win and the 2-point conversion and cashed in as Gramjo ran it in off the left side again for the exclamation point and the victory.

“We needed this win, it was long overdue,” Casa Grande coach Denis Brunk said. “When they (Justin-Siena) scored to take the lead we knew we were going for two points the whole time if we scored. The left side of our offensive line was getting a good push all night. That's why we went that way twice.”

Casa Grande led 7-0 after the first quarter and 14-12 at halftime but trailed 27-21 at the end of the third quarter.

“The game went back and forth all night,” Brunk said. “Our confidence was very high. We knew we were the better team we just needed the ball in our hands.”

The Gauchos gashed the Braves (3-2, 0-1) for four quarters on the ground and scored all five touchdowns with runs. Jordan Herrera and Gramajo each had two rushing touchdowns and Alex Johnson added another.

“We had a great ground game tonight. We had a great week of practice. Our defense actually did a great job,” Brunk said. “We had a couple of breakdowns late when their receivers were able to get behind our defensive backs for a couple of scores, but our defense kept us in the game.”

Brunk said it felt weird playing a league game that wasn't in the North Bay League but he said he is excited about the VVAL and right now the Gauchos are tied atop the standings.

“This is most definitely a springboard for the rest of the season,” Brunk said. “This is the turnaround game for the team.”

Sonoma Valley 28, Napa 16

The visiting Dragons (2-3, 1-0) defeated the Grizzlies (0-5, 0-1) with a balanced offensive attack and a stout defense.

“Our offensive line is starting to gel a bit,” Sonoma Valley coach Bob Midgley said. “Our defense set the pace and Napa had a lot of three-and-outs (on offense).”

The Dragons scored their touchdowns via runs by Tyler Winslow (6 yards), Andrew Beatty (5 yards), Trent Garret (2 yards) and an 85-yard kick-off return by Jake Baker that put the Dragons up 20-9 in the third quarter. The Baker jaunt was the big blow to Napa.

“The return was awesome, it sparked us. That play was huge,” Midgley said. “We are starting to execute and finish (games). We moved some sophomores up and they are contributing big.”

Beatty had two interceptions and Winslow anchored the defense from his middle linebacker station.

American Canyon 43, Petaluma 16

The one Sonoma County team in the VVAL that came up short in its first league game was the visiting Trojans (3-2, 0-1), who had a cavalcade of offensive errors that the Wolves (1-4, 1-0) gladly took advantage of.

“Our offense gave them 30 points. Our offense had a rough night. We made too many mistakes,” Petaluma coach Rick Krist said. “This was the worst offensive showing we have had in years.”

The Trojans fumbled the ball in their own red-zone in the first quarter leading to the first American Canyon score and a 7-0 deficit for Petaluma.

With the score tied 7-7 in the second quarter, catastrophe struck the Trojans. Within a three-minute stretch Petaluma had a punt blocked and returned 25 yards for a Wolves touchdown and two pick-six interceptions (15 and 50 yards) by American Canyon. The Wolves scored 22 points in three minutes and the game was effectively over before halftime.

“It was like we were in a haze all night. We just couldn't get out of the hole we were in. It was like a domino effect, one bad thing would happen after another,” Krist said. “We will clean it up next week. There is no panic. We are going back to practice fired up and we will work harder next week.”

One bright spot was the Trojans' defense, which allowed only 150 yards on offense to the speedy American Canyon offense.

“We killed it on defense. We were well-prepared. We tackled well and played very physical,” Krist said. “(But) our offense was just terrible.”

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