Casa Grande playoff run ends in 55-3 loss at Clayton Valley

By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Casa Grande’s improbable run deep into the North Coast Section Division 2 Tournament came to an end Friday night in Concord as Clayton Valley Charter School defeated the Gauchos in the semifinals, 55-3.

Midway through the season, Casa was a long shot to make the bracket.  The Gauchos began the year 0-5 and needed to win four of their last five regular-season games just to become eligible.

The selection committee rewarded Casa for its late run with a No. 5 seed and the Gauchos defeated Miramonte and Maria Carrillo in the opening rounds.

However, undefeated Clayton Valley proved to have too much firepower.

The top-seeded Ugly Eagles took control of the game from the start. After one quarter it was 21-0 and by halftime the lead had grown to 35-3.

Casa’s only score was a 44-yard field goal by Matt Abramo.

“Clayton Valley is the top-ranked Division 2 team in the state,” Gauchos coach Trent Herzog said. “They’re big, fast and strong. My guys played hard and I’m extremely proud of them.

“Clayton Valley is No. 1 for a reason.”

Casey Longaker was the stats leader on both sides of the ball for the Gauchos.

Playing linebacker, the senior made 11 solo tackles and assisted on three others including three tackles for loss. He was also Casa’s leading rusher with 36 yards on six carries.

Quarterback J.J. Anderson completed seven of 19 passes for 77 yards while Nic Petri was the leading receiver for the Gauchos with one reception good for 39 yards.

Casa made it to the Division 2 title game last year and the Gauchos, undefeated at the time, lost to Miramonte, 41-28.

Although that was a great season, Herzog said the one that just concluded has been the most rewarding.

“The players and the coaching staff stayed together through adversity. I’ve been coaching 21 years, six as head coach at Casa, and this season has been one I’ll never forget.

“The turning point came after we lost the fourth game in a row to start the season (45-10 to Rancho Cotate). They’d been playing hard but after that loss they recommitted themselves.

“Finishing strong and then winning two games in NCS showed what they were capable of doing.

“One other thing I’m proud of is that we’ve played 27 games over the past two years. A program has to be successful to make it deep in the playoffs like we have two years in a row.”