Casa Grande shook off the effects of a sluggish first half to take the play away from Heritage and escape with a 12-7 victory in Brentwood on Friday night.
The Gauchos (2-0) were out-gained 108-96 in total offense in the first two periods and trailed 7-3 before making some key adjustments at intermission that completely turned the game around.
The contest began in the 91 degree heat in the East Bay, but conditions became more comfortable as the sun disappeared beyond the western rim of the Patriot stadium. The Gauchos executed considerably better after gathering with coach Trent Herzog at intermission, and dominated the second half.
Place-kicker Matt Abramo rammed his second field goal of the night to bring the Gauchos closer at 7-6 midway through the third period after Casa marched 45 yards following a poor Patriot punt. The 24 yard boot cleared the crossbar with plenty of room to spare, and it appeared only a matter of time before the Gauchos would put their offense in gear again under the controls of senior quarterback JaJuan Lawson.
Lawson hooked up with Kyle Chase and Miles Gardea for a couple of first down passes, and ran for two more to move the ball into the kicking range of Abramo. Lawson is now averaging over seven yards per carry after two contests.
Lawson had much more success running the ball when he could not find receivers down field, and he cut through the spread out defense of the host Patriots. The elusive senior ran for 55 yards and passed for 69 in the second half when the Gauchos controlled the proceedings.
The biggest adjustments in the second half for Casa came on defense, and Herzog explained after the game, "Our coaches in the booth noticed that one of their key linemen was leading every play on the ground for them, so we just slanted our defenses in the direction he would lean. Give our coaches the credit on that one because we really shut down the Heritage running game."
Casa won the battle of field position in the late going by forcing another Patriot punt that kept the game-winning drive inside the 35-yard line.
Explosive Gaucho running back John Porchivina ran with greater energy as he alternated 11-yard runs with Lawson to get the ball into the red zone as the fourth quarter began.
On the first play of the period, Porchivina broke to the right side behind some terrific blocking up front to score the only touchdown of the night for Casa Grande on a 4-yard gallop. The score gave the Gauchos the lead of 12-7, and it would stay that way as a two-point conversion try failed.
A fumble recovery gave Casa another shot at an Abramo field goal, but the third time was not a charm when the Patriot front wall broke through to block the attempt for a third three pointer. A 27 yard pass play from Lawson to Gardea set up the try.
During most of the final minutes of the final stanza, Heritage had the ball in its own territory, but moved with little success. Patriot quarterback Sohail Mohsini scrambled in the backfield looking for receivers that were blanked by Casa defenders.