Football: Analy routs Casa Grande in showdown of league champs

Analy’s Xavier Freeman (2) makes a catch in front of Casa Grande’s Jaleel Lawson during Friday night’s game in Sebastopol. Alvin Jornada / For The Press Democrat

Analy’s Xavier Freeman (2) makes a catch in front of Casa Grande’s Jaleel Lawson during Friday night’s game in Sebastopol.
Alvin Jornada / For The Press Democrat

By MIKE COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

SEBASTOPOL — New season, same fast start as Analy took command early Friday to handle Casa Grande and serve notice that the Tigers are among the Bay Area’s best.

Passing early and often, Analy soared to a 47-14 win with the Tigers’ defense matching the offense in a surprisingly dominant performance.

“We expected everything we got from Casa. This was a big win,” said Analy quarterback Will Smith, who threw for 251 yards and three scores in the first half.

In a contest of reigning league champions, Analy’s speed beat Casa Grande’s size, especially when the Gauchos had the ball. Analy limited Casa to two first downs in the first half, matched by forcing a pair of turnovers.

Humbled in defeat, Casa Grande will hit the restart button. The Gauchos remain confident of contending for a North Bay League title.

“We kind of got in our own heads. We need to get better,” said running back Kevin Donohoe.

The matchup of former Sonoma County League rivals was important to both teams for different reasons. Analy wanted a marquee win to bolster the Tigers’ resume for the North Coast Section playoffs. Casa Grande sought a strong start with a largely new squad.

(l to r) Xavier Freeman and other members of the Analy High School football team.

Xavier Freeman, Malcolm Jenkins, Will Smith and Ja’narrick James of the Analy High School football team. (COURTESY PHOTO)

Picking up from last season’s roll to a NCS Division 3 semifinal, Analy’s offense was nearly unstoppable. Mixing quick-hitting passes with occasional inside runs, the Tigers scored on its first five drives of the contest.

A shanked Casa Grande punt set up Analy early with the Tigers needing only three plays to go 30 yards for the game’s first score. Then the Tigers went to work on a nine-play scoring drive featuring a mix of runs and passes that kept the Gauchos reaching for stops.

Passing and catching broke open the game for Analy. Seeming to set up Casa Grande with a balanced offense, Analy then stayed mostly in the air, in part because Casa Grande had a size advantage to limit rushing yards.

“We’re a pretty good passing team. That’s our strong point,” Smith said.

Indeed, the Tigers and Smith were equally proficient in the short and long passing attack.

Coming off a prolific passing season, Smith has even more targets this year.

Big on Friday night was receiver Malcolm Jenkins, with nine catches for 168 yards and three touchdowns.

With the Tigers’ defense holding its own against Casa Grande’s ball-control offense, Analy looked strong on both sides of the ball — a good sign against a formidable opponent in week one.

“We just treated it like any other game,” said Analy wide receiver Kerr Johnson Jr.

“We can play with anyone, so why not now.”

Leading the Analy stoppers was Isaac Kangas with a dozen tackles. Angelo Muniz added eight tackles.

“We knew we had to stop the run,” Kangas said. “They’re good, but we had a better jump off the ball.”

Also coming off a great campaign, Casa Grande revealed a talented team that is filling holes on both sides of the ball.

“It’s a new team. We were excited for the new season,” said Casey Longaker, who anchors the Gauchos’ defense at linebacker.

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