Casa Grande High school's 35-0 win over Santa Rosa Friday night did a number of good things for the Gauchos — it gave them a school record fifth straight win to start a season; it solidified the Gauchos' hold on the Redwood Empire's No. 1 ranking; it marked Casa as the North Bay League title favorite.
But all of those accomplishments pale in comparison to the real significance of the victory — it was a win for CJ. The Gauchos dedicated the game to CJ Banaszek, the courageous Petaluma 11-year-old who is in the hospital bravely awaiting his second bone-marrow transplant in his battle with leukemia.
CJ has become both a celebrity and a hero to the students at Casa Grande. Last year, when he was feeling better, he led the Casa Grande football team onto the field. His name with best wishes was on the wall in Coach Ed Iacopi Gymnasium throughout last year's basketball season.
He is a Gaucho.
Many Casa Grande players wore orange wrist bands, shoe covers and other adornments during the Santa Rosa game, showing their support for CJ by displaying his favorite color. Before the game, the team phoned CJ from the locker room at Santa Rosa High school.
"The players told him to stay strong and keep on fighting and he told us to keep on fighting," said Casa Grande coach Trent Herzog.
"This was the most important game of the year," said center Julian Lopez. "We had to fight for CJ the way he's fighting."
"It was a really emotional game for us," said linebacker Miles Gardea. "We've been fighting for him the whole year. We really want CJ to know that we're here to help him get through this thing."
Casa Grande has won five football games this season and will win many more, but last week's game was special.