Two-headed beast in Gauchos’ secondary

Casa Grande football player Steven Bentley. Photo taken on Wednesday, August 18, 2010, in Petaluma, California. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

Sure, Casa Grande had a defensive back return two interceptions for touchdowns in Friday night’s 21-7 victory over visiting Montgomery. The crazy thing is that it wasn’t Makana Garrigan.

Gauchos fans have grown accustomed to Garrigan poaching the opposition. He had 11 interceptions a year ago from his safety position, adding to his three fumble recoveries and team-high 117 tackles. On offense, Garrigan had six touchdown receptions and a touchdown pass in 2009. He punted for Casa, and shared punt and kickoff returns.

This year, Garrigan – now a senior – has two touchdown receptions and a punt return for another score. But suddenly he has to share billing in the secondary with junior Steven Bentley.

It was Bentley who almost singlehandedly destroyed the Vikings, returning interceptions 69 and 65 yards for touchdowns. The cornerback now has three picks for the season, and has also blocked a punt.

“Steven Bentley is a very smart football player,” Casa Grande coach Trent Herzog said after Friday’s game. “He played quarterback his freshman year and sophomore year, and he knows what quarterbacks are gonna do out there. He knows looking at their eyes, he knows reading routes. Very smart player, and he made two spectacular plays. The second one was as good a runback as you’re gonna see in high school football – read his blocks, showed his offensive skill.”

Garrigan suffered a stinger on the Gauchos’ second possession of the night, and didn’t turn in one of his patented game-changing plays. But he found ways to help, making 12 tackles and several big plays in pass coverage. He further showed his versatility when he took a snap at punter, drew in the return men by faking as if he were going to run, then punting past them. Casa downed the ball at the Vikings’ 6-yard line.

In the second quarter, Garrigan forced Montgomery to punt by breaking up Danny McRae’s pass to Devante Love on third-and-10. And with the Vikings driving in the fourth quarter, Garrigan made back-to-back stops, nailing Love after a short gain on third-and-10, then getting a hand on McRae’s pass on the next play to give Casa the ball.

“He’s a warrior,” Herzog said of Garrigan.

Next up for Casa Grande: the Sonoma County League opener at El Molino. The 3-1 Lions have one of the region’s best quarterbacks in Mike Pierson, but he will be taking a calculated risk if he attacks Garrigan or Bentley in the open field.

— Phil Barber