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Return of the Egg Bowl is a community event


What might be the biggest sporting event held in Petaluma in the past seven years happens Saturday afternoon on the Casa Grande High School football field when Petaluma and Casa Grande high schools kick off the 2017 Community Egg Bowl.

The football game between the Gauchos and Trojans dates back to 1974. The contest between the rivals was officially dubbed the Egg Bowl in 1993. It was suspended following a contentious 2011 game, and finally reinstated and reinvented this year with an emphasis on “community,” sportsmanship and unity.

Players from both teams have joined in several joint community-service projects, including clearing hay bales following the Rivertown Revival and helping out at the Petaluma Educational Foundation’s big PEF Bash.

According to the coaches, Denis Brunk at Casa Grande and Rick Krist at Petaluma, the players have bought into the community aspect.

“I see a lot of good will coming from the kids,” Krist says. “They’re the ones who will keep things in perspective.”

“Football is a competitive sport, but it is a community event and our kids have bought into that,” Brunk says.

But, as the Casa coach notes, it is a competitive event and once the ball is kicked off at 3 p.m., neither team will be leaving anything on the field, even though it is a non-league contest.

“Petaluma is a very good football team,” says Brunk. “We take it as a must-win game. We will come out full steam and give it a 100-percent effort.”

Krist said that, in addition to the emotional importance, the game has practical implications.

“This is an important game for us down the road,” he says. “(NCS) Division 3 is stacked with good games and every non-league game could well have playoff implications.”

The two teams go into the game with starkly contrasting records. Petaluma has won all three of its games, beating Montgomery, 55-48; Santa Rosa, 49-12; and Terra Linda, 52-44. Casa Grande has played just two games and lost them both, falling to St. Bernard’s, 42-14, and San Marin, 45-18.

Krist is quick to warn not to write the Gauchos off because of the record. “Their record doesn’t reflect the kind of team they are,” the Petaluma coach says. “They have played two really good teams. They have some good athletes, and we are going to have to step up our game to win.”

Although Petaluma won and Casa Grande lost last week, it was Brunk who was most pleased with his team’s play.

“We had a lot of turnovers (five),” Krist points out of Petaluma’s play in the win over Terra Linda. “Overall, it was not our finest effort.”

Brunk was more pleased with the Gauchos, despite the loss to San Marin.

“We are getting better,” he says. “Our offense is starting to click. We expect to get better week-to-week and it was nice to see us progress. It is cool that the players are beginning to get it.”

To stop Petaluma, the Gauchos are not only going to have to get it, they are going to have to do it, particularly on defense, where they made strides last week, but have still given up 87 points in two games and will be facing a team that is averaging 50 points a game.

The Trojans are a running team using a triple-option attack expertly administered by senior quarterback Justin Wolbert as the key to the assault. Last week, Wolbert “read” the Terra Linda defense to the tune of 369 rushing yards, leading the way with 155 yards of his own. Fullback Jacob Rollstin, the team workhorse, added 129 yards. The two mainstays are supplemented by a variety of complementary halfback speedsters.

“They will put a lot of pressure on our defensive line,” says Brunk.

Adding to that pressure is a solid Petaluma offensive line — anchored by Luke Haggard, one of the best two-way linemen in the North Coast Section. His sidekicks include center Dan DeCarli, along with Nick Siembieda, Jacob Cybulski, Tru Overton and Xavier Crysdale. Combined, they form one of the best units in the area.

A problem for the Gauchos is the Trojans’ timely passing attack. If they load the box to stop the run, Wolbert, although he throws sparingly, is an accurate passer with solid receivers in tight end Hayden Fehler and wide receiver Isaiah Blomgren.

A not-so-secret weapon for Petaluma is junior speed back Garrett Freitas, who has made kicking, either from the tee or punting, problematic for opposing teams with electrifying returns. He returned two kickoffs for touchdowns in the Trojans’ opening-game win over Montgomery and had both a long kickoff and a long punt return against Santa Rosa. He is averaging 43 yards a kickoff return.

Casa Grande will count on active linebackers John Green and Jack Leonetti, the team’s leading tacklers over the first two games, 280-pound down lineman Alex Azanon, safety/linebacker Kenneth Fitzgerald and defensive back Jadon Bosarge to counter the Trojan attack.

While Petaluma packs its offensive front, often using double tight ends, Casa Grande spreads its attackers all over the field and often comes throwing.

Junior quarterback Jance Offerman had a busy afternoon last week against San Marin, passing 47 times. He completed 24 for 269 yards in an impressive effort.

Casa Grande has several quality receivers, led by standout Isaiah Cappelen, who grabbled six passes for 86 yards against the Mustangs and has 13 in the Gauchos’ two games.

Offerman’s big numbers last week were somewhat dictated by Casa Grande’s need to throw after falling behind early.

The Gauchos have the potential to have a strong running game with a solid front line of center Justin Naugle, guards Green and Matthew Hart and tackles Anazon and Braeden Chadwick.

Running behind the line are Kenneth Fitzgerald, a 235-pound load of speed in his first full season with Casa after transferring from Marin Catholic, and veteran speedster Leonetti.

Petaluma’s defense has been vulnerable to the pass in its early games, a concern going into Saturday’s affair against Casa’s spread offense.

The Trojans will depend on monster pass rusher Haggard, who has given opposing quarterbacks fits with charges from his end position, and swarming helmets to the ball to stop the Gauchos.

Linebacker Jacob Havard has been impressive in the first games, while Freitas and Blomgren have done well defending in the backfield.

The bottom line is that no one has a clue what will happen when the Community Egg Bowl kicks off at 3 p.m. at Casa Grande High School. The junior varsity game is at noon.