Gauchos move on with muddy, shutout win

With Northgate players not able to keep their footing in the mud Casa Grande quarterback Nick Sherry gets off a pass Saturday night. (SCOTT MANCHESTER / PD).

By BOB PADECKY
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

PETALUMA – The players from Northgate High School looked down at the Casa Grande field Friday night the way one would look walking on, through and around worms. Yuck!

The field, to be fair, wasn’t a field. It was a place for 10-year olds having a mud fight, a place for cows with no other place to go, a place that would feel like an alien life form to players who practice and perform on artificial turf. Like Northgate. Poor Northgate. Poor dirty, muddy, grubby Northgate.

“In the 20 years that I have been here,” said Casa head coach Trent Herzog, “this is by far the worst I have ever seen it here.”

The Gauchos, of course, have all the experience of playing on the dirty, muddy, nasty field. That home bog advantage — er, home field advantage, was never more obvious in the 43-0 pasting Casa gave Northgate. Northgate runners tippy-toed into holes. They were afraid to make cuts. They ran slow and tentative and for a team that loves to run and got to be 9-2 that way, slow and tentative resulted in two interceptions and five fumbles.

The only true running Northgate ever accomplished was its coach, Justin Lowell, asking the officials to begin the running clock with 7:01 left in the game.

“There were places out there,” said Casa quarterback Nick Sherry, “that once you got in them, you couldn’t move. You just were there, stuck. You could tell they didn’t want to make a cut.”

The Gauchos are now 14-0 the last two years at home, a statistic that says volumes on their ability to play well in the slog of a bog. “That’s why we wanted to get a high seed so we could have this home field advantage,” Herzog said. “We are used to it.”

Herzog wouldn’t go so far as to say Casa “likes” playing in a mud pit but the Gauchos didn’t have the hesitation or the grimace Northgate had. That was never more obvious than in the play of Sherry. A quarterback, especially one bound for a D1 school on a football scholarship like Sherry is, might get frustrated if he completed only six of 20 pass attempts. Which Sherry did Saturday night.

Ah, but four of those completions went for touchdowns, which is a high percentage yield considering even the Gauchos found themselves sliding and slipping and skidding as if they were at a water park. Those six completions totaled 196 yards, again a high percentage yield.

Casa did what Northgate couldn’t do, score quick to avoid keeping the ball too long to lose it. The Broncos — how shall we say — were vertically challenged. If their quarterback, Alex Cost, didn’t slip on his back foot every time he attempted to pass, the frequency was close to it. Northgate gained only 143 yards total offense all night, Cameron Stover, who averaged 163 yards a game this season for Northgate, gained only 41 yards in 19 carries Saturday night.

The last play of the game was symbolic. Northgate had a fourth and goal at the three, valiantly trying to avoid a shut out when Cost went back to pass — and slipped and fell down in the mud.

Up next for Casa is the top seed in the Division 2 bracket, 11-1 Concord.

“We’re going to be underdogs,” Sherry said, “and I love being the underdog. No one expects you to do anything.”

Of course Casa Grande is 11-1 and they have scored 73 points while not allowing any in its first two NCS playoff games. A 73-0 is a nice day’s work — actually two days work — and it provides Casa Grande with some healthy momentum going against Concord.

“In order to be the best,” Herzog said, “you got to play the best. And Concord right now is the best. We are looking forward to playing them because these 40 guys here (pointing to his team) I’ll take them anywhere.”

And they proved their coach right Friday night. To turn a phrase, if Casa Grande can play where it played Friday night, it can play anywhere.

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