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Prep football: Casa Grande triumphs over Petaluma in Egg Bowl

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Casa Grande High School senior Matt Herrera, playing with an injured shoulder that had forced him to miss the prior week’s game, scored three touchdowns Saturday afternoon to lead the Gauchos to a convincing 27-3 win over Petaluma’s Trojans in the schools’ Egg Bowl rivalry game.

“This is amazing,” Herrera said after the win. “It’s even greater to do it in my senior year and to take my last ride on my home field with my family here.”

Playing on a mild autumn day designed for high school football, Casa Grande withstood an emotional Petaluma storm to hold a 6-3 halftime edge before taking the game away from the injury-hobbled Trojans in the second half.

Despite a spirited first half that sent them into the halftime locker room trailing by only a field goal, Petaluma may well have been knocked out of the game in the first two minutes when quarterback Jack Hartman — the engine that makes the Trojans’ triple-option run — hobbled off the field without ever taking an offensive snap.

Hartman, who is also one of Petaluma’s leading defenders, went down after helping throw Casa Grande’s Dominic Giomi for a loss as the Gauchos were driving into Trojans territory in the first offensive series of the game.

Hartman’s tackle not only sent him to the bench, but also appeared to have ended the Casa Grande drive, an assumption that proved wrong when Casa Grande quarterback Miguel Robertson teamed up with Giomi on a 13-yard fourth-down conversion pass. The pass continued the Gauchos’ drive and led to a 3-yard Herrera run for the first half’s only touchdown. The point-after kick try hit the right goal post, leaving the Gauchos’ lead at six.

Petaluma’s defense, led by Logan Wagers on the front line and Joey Alioto at linebacker, held Casa Grande at bay for the rest of the half.

Petaluma chewed up much of the second-quarter clock with a 75-yard march engineered by quarterback Caden Shirk. The drive was accomplished mostly on the ground with Ivan Cortes, Dante Ratto and Mario Zarco carrying the ball. Shirk, who had only limited experience at quarterback before answering the emergency summons, contributed two key passes to the effort that eventually stalled at the Casa Grande 11. Julian Marth salvaged three points with a 28-yard field goal that sneaked inside the left goal post for Petaluma’s only points.

In the second half, Herrera and Robertson — working behind a dominating Casa offensive line — took charge. Petaluma aided the Gauchos with two fumbles that led directly to Casa touchdowns. In total, Petaluma lost four fumbles and had a punt blocked.

While Petaluma’s workhorse defense noticeably tired, the Gauchos ran Herrera and Giomi through ever-widening holes, and Robertson — given seemingly endless time to find receivers — made key connections with Dominic McHale and Rashad Nixon.

The Casa touchdowns came on a 7-yard Herrera run, a 21-yard Robertson-to-Giomi pass and a 22-yard Herrera sprint.

The emotional highlight of the crosstown rivalry came when Petaluma senior Aidan Spillane scored on an untimed and unofficial play right after the second-half kickoff. Spillane has a form of cerebral palsy called polumicrogyria, which severely limits the use of his right arm and hand and causes a noticeable limp. He serves as Petaluma’s water boy and has become a favorite friend of the players.

Both teams agreed to let Spillane suit up and run a play in the game. As he pranced with joy in the end zone after his successful run, he was mobbed by players from both sides as the large Egg Bowl crowd went wild in appreciation.

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