Rancho Cotate's physical Cougars erupted for three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to disappoint Casa Grande's Gauchos, 28-7, Friday night in the showdown battle for first place in the North Bay League.

The result kept the Cougars perfect for both the season and in league at 4-0 and 7-0, and dropped the Gauchos to 3-1 and 5-2.

Up until the final period explosion, the result of good fortune and a pair of long-distance bombs, the game was a bruising defensive battle with no quarter given and none asked.

Casa Grande scored in the first period when quarterback JaJuan Lawson gunned the ball to Jared Roberts, who zig, zagged and zipped 69 yards with a spectacular run after the catch for a touchdown.

Matt Abramo added an important PAT kick for a 7-0 Casa Grande lead.

It was to be the Gauchos' only scoring hurrah of the well-played game. Keying on Lawson, the rugged Rancho Cotate defense shut out the visitors to their lush playground the rest of the way, allowing Casa only three more first down.

Casa's own defense, with Elijah Qualls up front, linebacker Jimmy Johnson right behind and Joey Botai in the secondary leading the way, was equally dominant for the first three periods.

Rancho Cotate fashioned a difficult 62-yard drive early in the second quarter, scoring on a 2-yard push by Tanoa Peleti. The extra point attempt was wide right following an illegal procedure penalty that backed kicker Rodrigo Perez up five yards, leaving the Gauchos in front, 7-6, at the half.

It stayed that way through a scoreless third quarter.

Early in the fourth period, Casa Grande halted a Cougar drive at the Gaucho 17-yard line, and Perez missed a 34-yard field goal try. However, the Gauchos inadvertently ploughed into the kicker and the resulting penalty set the Cougars up at the Casa 5-yard line.

What would stand as the game-winning touchdown came on a perfectly thrown pass on a fade route by Cougar quarterback Michael Couchaine and a brilliant leaping catch by Carlos Soto in the right corner of the end zone.

As time clicked away on the Gauchos, the Cougars struck quickly on a 39-yard pass connection again between co-captains Couchaine and Soto and a sizzling 45-yard run by Jalon Luque.

Those touchdowns made the final scored a deceptive 28-7.

For complete game story, see the Oct. 18 edition of the Petaluma Argus-Courier.