It was a grand production featuring close to a hundred stars, a strong supporting cast, guest celebrities and a truckload of gifts and awards. Befitting a blockbuster, it was also long, running almost four hours from a start delayed momentarily while celebrants watched concluding scenes of a preliminary reality show involving the San Francisco 49ers striving for survival on the frozen tundra of Green Bay, Wis. The Casa Grande High School football team was worthy of the effort, the accolades and every minute of the time it took to bring to a celebratory conclusion the greatest football season in the school's history.
The epilogue to the 2013 Casa Grande gridiron saga will continue to be written over the next several weeks as the team's stars announce plans to continue their education and athletic careers at various colleges and universities across the country, but, for the majority, a season for the ages was bought to a conclusion Sunday evening at the Casa Grande Football Awards Banquet. It was the 24th annual dinner and celebration for Casa football players, but this one, like the team, was special. The 2013 Casa Grande team won more games than any other football team in the school's history. All 13 of the Gauchos' wins during a 13-1 season came in succession. No other Casa team had won more than five in a row. The streak included seven wins in a perfect run to the North Bay league championship. It was the first football title in the NBL for the Gauchos after a dominating run of titles in the Sonoma County League.
There were a multitude of individual awards along the way. Of the five special awards given out by the NBL coaches, four went to Gauchos. This is in addition to coach Trent Herzog's selection as the league's Coach of the Year. There are five starting positions on a team's offensive line. Six Gaucho linemen received some sort of all-league recognition. For the first time that I can remember (I'm sure its happened before), a local team had a player selected to the San Francisco Chronicle's All-Metro first team and Casa had two -#8212; JaJuan Lawson and John Porchivina. In addition, Miles Gardea was placed on the second team and Daniel Greisen and Matt Abramo received honorable mention.
The Gaucho fame spread beyond Petaluma. David Rabbitt, president of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors and a Petaluma resident, presented resolutions of commendation from the supervisors to each varsity player.
Ron Walters, Petaluma's legendary radio announcer and friend to all, especially three generations of local athletes, served as master of ceremonies. For Walters, the occasion was doubly special. Not only is he a fan of all sports things Casa Grande (actually, all sports things Petaluma, period) but his grandson is Gardea, the best defensive football player in the Redwood Empire. Through his grandson, Walters has watched many of this year's varsity Gauchos grow from Little Leaguers into varsity football champions. He also brought an institutional knowledge to the proceedings. Who else would have recalled that current Casa coach Trent Herzog, the NBL's Coach of the Year, used to be called "The Toe" for his kicking prowess?
Walters noted that "It takes a village to put together a program like this." That observation was readily apparent as Herzog handed out gifts to a long list of special people who where involved in the success of this year's team, thanking people from the public address announcers to the Boosters, stat girls, and many others.