Postgame incident nearly spoils Casa’s effort

Concord's Cody Chapple takes down Casa Grande's Nick Sherry Friday night. CRISTA JEREMIASON / PD).

CONCORD
If there was an ugly/beautiful way for Casa Grande to end its season, it happened here Friday night. The beautiful part, the part that will stay with all the players for as long as they play football, was picking themselves up off the mat, clearly down, scoring three unanswered touchdowns in the fourth and scaring the living heck out of mighty and heavily favored Concord.
In time, that fourth-quarter comeback will say more about the 2010 Gauchos than being on the short end of that 26-21 score. To rally, and to rally like that, it left — and it should have left — only one taste in the mouth of any Casa player or coach.
That victory was just a possession away.
“We just ran out of time,” said Casa coach Trent Herzog.
That should be the only thing the Gauchos should remember about Friday night. It won’t be.
According to Casa defensive backs coach Marcell Lawson, seconds after the game Gauchos defensive coordinator Todd Smith yelled to a game official, “Just let the kids play!” Smith was protesting a holding call against the Gauchos with 1:50 left in the game, allowing Concord to run out the clock. The call appeared highly dubious, but more on that later.
Lawson said that Brian Hamilton, the Concord head coach and athletic director, heard Smith yelling and started to approach the Casa coach.
“I stepped in front of Todd,” Lawson said, “and the coach (Hamilton) gave me a shove (in the chest). I wasn’t provoking anything. Todd wasn’t talking to their coach. He was talking to the ref. I just stood in front of my coach.”
Within seconds coaches and players rushed to the scene. Security was called. At least one police officer entered the scene. Order was restored, but the tension was so apparent that when the Gauchos were preparing to leave the field in their team bus, at least six local police officers were seen near the Casa locker room.
Casa, for its part, walked away from a scrum that could have turned uglier than it was. See, the Gauchos had a heat on all right. With a third and 14 from the Casa 41, with 1:50 left, Concord quarterback Ricky Lloyd threw a pass over the head of a receiver. Casa defensive back Makana Garrigan was flagged for holding the receiver.
To be as fair as possible, it looked from the sidelines like two players going for the ball.
“It was a doubtful call,” said ex-Newman coach and Herzog offensive assistant Ed Lloyd. “I didn’t see it as a good call.”
Garrigan was steadfast in denying he held the Concord receiver.
“No, sir, no way (I held him),” said Garrigan, in tears.
Herzog was clear in his assessment as well.
“The refs gave it (victory) to them,” Herzog said.
When he spoke to the team afterward, Herzog complimented his players on keeping their cool, keeping perspective and then spoke of looking at the glass more than half full, not even half empty.
“Guys, we went longer into the season than any Casa team,” Herzog said. “I am so proud of you.”
Herzog could start with quarterback Nick Sherry, who was 6-of-19 passing for 70 yards and two interceptions in the game with 2:05 left in the third. In the fourth Sherry threw a 9-yard touchdown to Tyler White, a three-yarder and an eight-yarder to Garrigan.
Herzog could have started with his defense, the one that allowed Concord — averaging 53.5 points a game — less than half that number.
But mostly should and did focus on the one thing that mattered most.
The Gauchos took Concord’s best shot — at home — and ended owning the game before it was over. Neither an official nor Brian Hamilton will ever get in the way of that.
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.