Casa Grande 27, Healdsburg 6: Greyhounds’ long, difficult day punctuated with a defeat

By PHIL BARBER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

PETALUMA — Healdsburg football coach Tom Kirkpatrick began the evening by quite literally steering his football team out of harm’s way. He ended it by acknowledging there is more to life than football, and few North Coast football teams better than Casa Grande, which won 27-6 on Friday and wrapped up an undefeated Sonoma County League season.

Casa Grande quarterback Nick Sherry looks to throw the ball during their game against Healdsburg at Casa Grande High School on Friday, Nov. 12, 2010, in Petaluma, California. (BETH SCHLANKER / The Press Democrat)

The Greyhounds were en route to Petaluma when their bus driver suddenly slumped over, the apparent victim of a heart attack. Kirkpatrick leaped into action as the bus drifted into another lane, steering the vehicle to the shoulder. Assistant coach Pete Thomas administered CPR before rescue workers arrived.

“Sort of puts everything in perspective,” Kirkpatrick said.

So, in a lesser sense, did this game. Healdsburg (7-3, 3-3) is a solid football team, but Casa (9-1, 6-0) had too much defense and too much Nick Sherry on this night. Sherry, who recently signed a letter of intent to play at Colorado, was 20 of 27 for 217 yards and two touchdowns, running an efficient offense as he went over 2,000 yards for the season.

Healdsburg entered the game intent upon taking away Sherry’s deep throws with a Cover 4 scheme. They succeeded for the most part, but Sherry showed his Division I talent by thriving in the short game, throwing the flares and slants and bubble screens that the defense allowed him. He hit sophomore Cole Boggs for a 24-yard scoring strike just 35 seconds before halftime, and found halfback Javonie Oden on a 30-yard strike in the fourth quarter on which the quarterback was simply trying to get a pass-interference penalty.

They also scored on Oden’s three-yard run, and on Makana Garrigan’s throw to Cole Boggs on a double-pass trick play with the clock expiring in the first quarter.

Casa Grande coach Trent Herzog called it a breakthrough game for Boggs, who is just a sophomore.

“He was on varsity all season,” Herzog noted. “Those catches, you’ll see that a lot the next two years. He’s one of our fastest players. It was a great confidence-builder, and it showed we’re not just a one-weapon team.”

Oden’s run capped a 67-yard drive and gave Casa a quick 7-0 lead. But Healdsburg came right back to score on Carson Seanor’s two-yard run, which the dynamic senior running back set up with a 41-yard scamper. The kick failed, and the Greyhounds were down 7-6.

They didn’t score again, thanks to a Casa Grande defense that basically took away the passing game. Healdsburg starter Max Opperman ran well, but completed only 1 of 5 passes for a single yard, and left the game with a shoulder injury just before halftime.

Opperman’s replacement, junior Luis Nieves, found it no easier to get into a rhythm. He completed 2 of 7 for 12 yards, with one interception, and was sacked three times in the second half.

With the Healdsburg passing game stalled, the Gauchos were free to stack the box against Seanor, the SCL’s top rusher and scorer. He wound up with 85 yards on 18 rushing attempts, but had just 25 yards on nine second-half carries.

The Greyhounds’ best scoring opportunity of the second half ended with an interception by Casa’s Steven Bentley, and the Gauchos beat Healdsburg for the fifth consecutive time.

“We didn’t play our best game, but you have to give them a lot of credit,” Kirkpatrick said. “They’re a good football team.”

It might have been lopsided, were it not for the Gauchos’ seven penalties, including three offsides and two false starts.

“My motto is, Casa Grande can only be beaten by Casa Grande,” Sherry said. “If we do that again in the playoffs, the result could be not what we want. We’ll do a lot of conditioning Monday. The number of penalties is how much we run.”

Both teams are expected to gain North Coast Section playoff berths, though they have to await their seedings. Casa Grande could land a No. 4 seed in Division II. Healdsburg must see if this loss jeopardized its shot at a No. 1 in Division IV.

You can reach Staff Writer Phil Barber at 521-5263 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com.