PETALUMA — What happens when a No. 16 seed faces a No. 1 seed in the North Coast Section playoffs? This: a 27-point second-quarter outburst, a 45-0 halftime lead and plenty of work for the second stringers.
Casa Grande, the top seed in Division 2, dispatched visiting Alameda 45-14 without much difficulty Saturday, getting big plays from the two guys who have been providing them all season. Quarterback JaJuan Lawson threw three touchdown passes and ran for another score, and John Porchivina scored three touchdowns, including a 76-yard burst that left a swarm of Hornets in his wake.
Then both retired to the bench for the entire second half.
"I think we answered the call pretty well," said Lawson, who completed 8 of 12 passes for 76 yards. "I mean, we got up 45-0 at the half, and if we'd really wanted to, we could have put our foot to the throttle and made it a lot bigger."
The undefeated Gauchos (11-0) will host a familiar foe in the second round next Saturday: the Windsor Jaguars, who came with Casa to the North Bay League from the Sonoma County League two years ago, and who hung tough in a 42-28 loss to Casa Grande on Nov. 1.
"It's always harder when you play a team a second time," Gauchos coach Trent Herzog told his players after the game.
All in all, it was one of Herzog's shorter postgame speeches. And really, what was there to say? Casa Grande was clearly stronger, deeper and more efficient than the visitors from the Shoreline Division of the West Alameda County Conference.
Granted, it took Casa a little while to get rolling against Alameda. The Gauchos went three-and-out the first time they had the ball, and after middle linebacker Miles Gardea caused a fumble that a teammate recovered at the Alameda 26-yard line shortly thereafter, it looked like that possession would stall, too.
Gardea lined up to attempt a short field goal, but the Hornets jumped offside, and Herzog sent his offense back onto the field on fourth-and-goal from the 3. It was an aggressive move, but it was also an acknowledgment of the Gauchos' instability in the kicking game. Matt Abramo, one of the region's best kickers, pulled a calf muscle a week and a half ago and missed most of the past two games.
Casa Grande missed four extra points Saturday, two kicking and two passing. Abramo was on crutches as recently as Tuesday, but the medical report given to Herzog says he could beback by the middle of this week.
Given another shot on fourth down, Porchivina bulled up the middle and reached over the goal line for a touchdown. The Gauchos scored on their final seven possessions of the first half.
"I'm proud of our team. They didn't take it lightly," Herzog said. "They respected Alameda. They knew Alameda was athletic, they had some playmakers. I think it took us about six minutes to adjust to their speed. And once we did, we were able to take advantage of the game plan."