Sherry leads as Casa rallies to win

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Casa Grande doesn’t want to make comeback wins a habit, but so far so good for the Gauchos as they took control of the second half of a 28-13 victory over Maria Carrillo on the road Friday.

Casa Grande quarterback Nick Sherry threw four touchdown passes Friday. (Crista Jeremiason / PD)

After allowing a Maria Carrillo march down the field for a touchdown to open the second half, Casa Grande scored 22 unanswered points, including a pair of slant strikes from quarterback Nick Sherry to receiver Makana Garrigan.

“We came together and we all got each other pumped up,” Garrigan said of the second-half surge. “That was probably one of the best games I’ve been in, team-wise and for me.”

The always dangerous Maria Carrillo ground game, so effective in keeping the Gauchos offense off the field and putting up two scores, struggled to make first downs after an impressive drive by the Pumas to take a 13-6 lead early in the third quarter.

All-everything player Sam Atoe and a strong supporting cast led by Emilio Pollock and Jake Delfino left their marks on Casa Grande. But they found fewer gaps and more swarming tacklers as the absence of a Pumas passing game led Gaucho defenders to take more chances.

“The opening drive of the second half, I felt that’s what our team is capable of doing. We just need to keep it going. You can’t afford to let that momentum go,” said Maria Carrillo coach Jay Higgins.

Casa Grande improved to 2-0 with the win. Maria Carrillo is now 1-1.

Defense dictated much of the first half. Three-and-out was the theme on most offensive series with a pair of All-Empire athletes — Sherry and Atoe — largely bottled up.

A pair of second-quarter scores hinted at both offenses opening up.

The game’s first big play was Delfino’s 48-yard scamper deep toward the Casa Grande end zone. But the Pumas went backward, including a drive-ending sack.

When the Pumas next had the ball, Atoe took a direct snap on third down, went to the middle and bolted up the left side for 41 yards. Staying on the ground, Maria Carrillo pounded out the final 17 yards on six rushes with Andrew Messerschmitt banging in for the first score in the contest.

Finally getting untracked, Casa Grande found the end zone inside four minutes to play in the half. Gaining some breathing room on first down, the Gauchos hit on two pass plays — 49 yards to Tyler White and 24 yards and a score to Anthony Poole. Atoe blocked the point after, keeping the Pumas in front.

Adding to their lead, Maria Carrillo went 64 yards in 13 plays for what would be the Pumas’ final score. The longest gain was Pollock’s 10-yard touchdown run.

Answering that score would turn the game the Gauchos’ way.

Mixing runs and passes more, Casa Grande scored on a 65-yard toss-and-run from Sherry to Garrigan. Fellow team captain White snagged the two-point conversion and the Gauchos never looked back after taking the 14-13 lead.

“We have some good leadership,” said Casa Grande coach Trent Herzog. “We can only get better as a team.”

Casa Grande looked plenty good in closing out the game.

On defense, the Gauchos didn’t allow a first down over the next five Pumas drives. Maria Carrillo only moved the chains in the game’s final minute.

The second Sherry-to-Garrigan touchdown connection pushed the score to 21-13. Coming on the first play after another three-and-out for Maria Carrillo, the Gauchos were looking strong.

“We played a good, strong game. There seemed to be a turning point there in the third quarter. It seems like it snowballed on us,” Higgins said.

Not that they needed it, but Casa Grande’s final touchdown came on a fake handoff and pitch-and-catch from Sherry to White.

Another come-from-behind victory against a good team gives the Gauchos confidence going into next week’s North Coast Section playoff contest against Montgomery with the Vikings winning.

“If it works, it works. But we need to be a full four-quarter team out there,” Garrigan said. “We needed to pick it up and we did.”

You can reach Staff Writer Michael Coit at 521-5470 or mike.coit@pressdemocrat.com.