Casa Grande broke the seal on a new era of football by blasting host Montgomery, 49-19, in Santa Rosa Friday night. The win marked the first North Bay League contest for the Gauchos as they dimmed the luster of the home field dedication to 33-year Viking head coach Jason Franci.
After both teams scored in the first period, the Gauchos erupted for five unanswered touchdowns to take a commanding 42-7 lead at halftime and coasted the rest of the way.
Interceptions by Jarred Roberts and Jake Ielmorini set the tone for Casa, and the offense used long distance plays to put the game away early.
Roberts picked off a pass by Chris Hester in the first period to put the Gauchos in a position to break an early 7-7 deadlock. Three plays later, Elijah Qualls broke several tackles to score from 18 yards out, and the rout was on. It would be the first of a pair of Qualls touchdown runs.
Later in the quarter, Ielmorini broke in front of a Viking receiver to haul in another pass attempt with nothing but open space in front of him, and the play resulted in a 44-yard touchdown.
It was Roberts who turned in a terrific all-around game as he caught two scoring passes of 58 and 11 yards from quarterback JaJuan Lawson in the second quarter.
Lawson, who ran for the first touchdown of the game on a 35-yard sprint through the Montgomery defense, shut things down after intermission as coach Trent Herzog cleared the bench. Versatile Cole Boggs finished the game at quarterback in the final Gaucho ball possessions.
The Gauchos added one last score in the first half after a fumble recovery set up the offense on the Viking 24-yard line. On the third play from scrimmage, junior running back Cody Hughson ran it in from the 1-yard line.
With Casa playing many reserves, the teams exchanged touchdowns in the third quarter. Qualls was almost unstoppable in an impressive 57-yard scoring run as he bulled his way into open field with Vikings in pursuit.
Montgomery quarterback Hester was able to spot more receivers in the quickly played second half, and the Vikings made the score more respectable with a couple of touchdowns.
Casa was able to shake off the effects of a surprising loss to Napa two weeks ago, but the Gauchos hurt themselves on several occasions with costly penalties and a fumble deep in their own territory in the first quarter.
The Gauchos improved to 3-1 overall and 1-0 in the NBL. Montgomery played without highly touted wide receiver Etienne Ezeff, who was not in uniform. The Vikings slipped to 1-3 for the season.
For complete game story, see Thursday's Argus-Courier.