NCS football: Casa earns muddy win

By BOB PADECKY
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
 

The Casa defense sacks American High quarterback Luis Araiza for a safety in the first quarter Saturday. (Photo for The Press Democrat / Scott Manchester)

PETALUMA — Makana Garrigan looked at the field Saturday night at Casa Grande, saw the rain pounding down, and smiled. Where other people saw mud and erratic footing and all manner of uncertainties because of the conditions, Garrigan saw nothing but leading an adventure, an adventure into the end zone.

 “I felt like a little kid out there,” Garrigan said.

And when little kids play in the mud, they score touchdowns and never have a bad day. Which described Garrigan on Saturday night against American in a Division II NCS playoff game. He had a signature game. Garrigan ran for two touchdowns, from three and 12 yards, and scored a third by catching a 48-yard pass from Nick Sherry. Casa, the fourth seed in NCS Div. II, beat No. 14 seed American, 29-0, in the rain, mud and cold, all three elements, by the way, Garrigan rendered irrelevant.

“You just saw why Makana is the best player in the SCL,” said Casa coach Trent Herzog.

It was Garrigan The Game Changer, that was Herzog’s reference. Sloppy conditions tend to neutralize speed and quickness, leveling the playing field, however muddy it is. And for a second there, by the end of the first quarter, with the rain coming down as if some gigantic shower head had been turned on full blast, it looked like Luis Araiza’s end zone sack might be the final score.

The first quarter ended, 2-0, after Araiza pinned American quarterback Tyrell Lockett in the end zone with 7:57 left in the period.

That’s when Herzog decided to go to his ace in the hole. That would be the Wildcat Formation when Garrigan would take the center snap and Sherry would go wide as a receiver.

“I’ve used it once before in a game this season,” Herzog said, “but I decided to keep it under wraps until I really needed it. Tonight, in these conditions, I really needed it. I ran it three times. Makana ran for a first down on one of them and scored touchdowns (running) on the other two. This is something other teams are going to have to look at and respect.”

On his 48-yard touchdown reception with 10:33 left in the fourth quarter, Garrigan, 5-foot-11, 185 pounds, ran a crossing route. On the 45-degree angle that sliced through American’s defense, Garrigan gave it such a burst that it looked like everyone else was stuck in mud, while he was running on artificial turf.

“Every time I touch the ball,” said the senior, “I think end zone every time.”

Garrigan did have a Sherry pass skid off his hands, so he wasn’t perfect. But considering the conditions, Garrigan had dry hands compared to American’s. The Eagles fumbled the ball six times, lost three of them, and found the Gauchos’ defense reducing them to a mud walk.

“Considering the conditions,” Herzog told his team afterwards, “you played really well in three area — offense, defense and special teams. We now have accomplished three of our goals this season. One, we won the Egg Bowl. Two, we won the SCL championship. Three, we get to practice on Thanksgiving Day.”

Number three provoked a sizeable whoop from his players. Practicing on Thanksgiving means Casa is still in the playoffs, still alive for what has to be the Gauchos’ fourth goal — an NCS championship. In no small measure, Makana Garrigan gives Casa a respectable shot at that goal because he has that breakaway talent that can turn a game into his, with no disrespect to Sherry and his 7-of-12, 160 yard passing performance.

“Makana is the best two-way (player) I have seen since I have been at Casa,” Herzog said. “He is quiet, respectful and a pleasure to coach.”

And on a night when the rain made the field playable only for pigs, Trent Herzog also found Makana Garrigan a pleasure to watch.

For more North Bay sports, go to Bob Padecky’s blog at padecky.blog.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist at 521-5223 or bob.padecky@pressdemocrat.com.