Casa Grande High School's Gauchos high stepped over the biggest hurdle of their pre-league football season and perhaps the biggest hurdle of their entire season Saturday night, conquering Napa, 31-19, at Memorial Stadium in Napa.
"It was the best game we've played in a long time," said Casa Grande coach Trent Herzog. "It was a great overall team effort. It was the best road win we've had since I've been head coach. "They tried to intimidate us, but our players didn't back down. They were extremely physical the entire game."
While the victory was a result of a total team effort, several stars sparkled brightly on both sides of scrimmage for the Gauchos.
None were brighter on either side of the ball than senior halfback/linebacker John Porchivina. Offensively, he gained 109 yards on just 11 carries and scored two touchdowns. Wearing his defensive helmet, he was credited with 11 tackles, seven solo.
Quarterback JaJuan Lawson connected on 16 of 21 passes for 238 yards and a touchdown, throwing to six different receivers. "Our offensive line did a great job in protecting JaJuan," Herzog said.
Safety Brad Freitas helped stop both the Napa run and pass, making seven solo tackles and intercepting a pass.
Kyle Chase jump started the Gauchos by tipping and snaring a Napa screen pass and returning it 39 yards for the game's first touchdown. Miles Gardea assisted with a crucial block on the return.
In the second quarter, Porchivina capped a Gaucho drive with a 4-yard touchdown run.
Meanwhile, the Casa Grande defense, with linebackers Gardea and Casey Longaker getting run-support help from Freitas, pretty much shut down the Napa ground game. Longaker was credited with nine tackles (seven solo) and Gardea eight (five solo). Napa had just 148 rushing yards.
Napa was able to move the ball through the air, although Casa Grande limited its big plays. Quarterback Kyle Beaver completed 19 passes, but he threw 39 times. Lawson blanketed highly reputed Napa tight end Austin Aaron after moving into the defensive backfield late in the second quarter, while Herzog had praise for the entire defensive backfield of Freitas, Andre Kupelian, Zakk Molina and Lawson for the way they stood up to the continued aerial assault by Beaver.
Late in the first half, Napa charged behind Beaver's passing, completing an 80-yard march with a 34-yard run by Derek Poteet that closed the halftime gap to 14-10.
The second half was controlled by the Gauchos.
In the third quarter, Matt Abamo booted a 40-yard field goal and Porchivina broke loose for a 40-yard scoring run.
Kupelian used his speed to complete a 49-yard touchdown catch and run on a throw by Lawson in the fourth quarter before Napa scored a final time on a 60-yard pass-fueled drive that was capped by Mac Nielsen's 1-yard run.
Casa Grande draws a bye this week, giving the Gauchos time to heal some pre-league wounds and prepare for a tough NBL-opening battle with Montgomery at the Big House on Sept. 28.
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