Wind blows ill for Casa in loss to San Marin

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Casa Grande’s Gauchos ended on the wrong end of the field and wrong end of the scoreboard Saturday afternoon, losing in overtime to San Marin’s Mustangs, 17-14.

Casa Grande had an opportunity to win the game in regulation, but Mateo Milani’s 37-yard field goal try into a stiff autumn wind was accurate, but well short.

As it turned out, the kick wouldn’t have counted one way or the other because the observant officials had noticed the San Marin coaches frantically calling for a time out just a heartbeat prior to the snap. What the kick did do was convince the Gauchos that to boot into the wind was futile.

Instead, on a fourth-and-goal situation from the San Marin 20-yard line with 2.1 seconds in regulation, Casa Grande opted for a long pass from quarterback Miguel Robertson to all-league wide receiver Dominic McHale. The Casa Grande catcher was sandwiched between two Mustang defenders, and the ball was swatted to the turf.

That set up overtime, with each team given a chance from the 25-yard line. Both teams ran with their backs to the wind, a contributing factor to the ultimate San Marin victory.

Casa Grande opened, and quickly moved to the San Marin 10-yard line on three rushes. Then, bad things happened to the Gauchos. A run netted four yards, but two passes fell incomplete. Rather than settle for a field goal which would have given San Marin a chance to win with a touchdown, the Gauchos opted for another fourth-down pass. It was off target, and the door was open for the Mustangs.

San Marin gained just three yards in three plays, but, with Casa Grande failing to score, all the Mustangs needed was a field goal and it was supplied by senior Jovais Kennedy. Kicking with the wind to his back, he breezed through a 38-yarder that finally decided a tense, hard-hitting contest.

“That was a tough one,” said Casa Grande coach John Antonio. “We had plenty of opportunities, but made too many mistakes. Our defense played tough. It was a winnable game.”

Most of the game was a tight defensive struggle, with both teams hampered by the wind that, as Antonio put it, “Turned passes into knuckle balls.”

Casa Grande took advantage of a bad punt snap to score early, taking over on the Mustang 15-yard line just five minutes into the game. It took just four plays for Robertson to run in a quarterback keeper from the 3-yard line.

Milani’s extra point gave the Gauchos a 7-0 lead.

Casa Grande widened its advantage to 14-0 with a little over four minutes left in the opening quarter on a drive set up by the first of two Ryan Kasper pass interceptions. Dominic Giomi did the scoring honors, capping off a 47-yard drive with a 3-yard run.

Milani again kicked good for the PAT.

San Marin, stymied by the Casa defense and costly penalties most of the first half, benefited from a flag late in the second quarter, using a late-hit call against the Gauchos to help go 44 yards to count on a 1-yard sneak by quarterback Matthew Sargent.

Kennedy’s conversion kick made it a 14-7 game at halftime.

The teams traded turnovers to start the second half, with Eli Cappelen recovering a San Marin fumble at the Mustang 35-yard line only to have Casa Grande give the ball back on a pass interception by Will Hickey after the Gauchos had driven to the Mustang 12-yard line.

The bumbling continued with the Mustangs fumbling again after pushing out to the 44-yard line. The recovery was by the opportunistic Kasper.

San Marin got the game’s most important drive going late in the third quarter, starting a 63-yard march that would tie the game.

The assault was carried out on the ground and almost entirely by running back Dante Dimare, who ran through the Casa Grande line on seven of the nine plays in the march.

Casa helped the Mustangs with two costly penalties, one for a helmet-to-helmet collision, and one for a hit out of bounds. Neither penalty was flagrant or deliberate, but both were costly.

The tying touchdown did not come easily for the Mustangs. It took four tries from the 10-yard line, and then the final yard, on a fourth-down play, was debatable.

It did count and Kennedy’s PAT kick gave everyone 14 points.

Then things really got interesting.

There was 3:59 showing on the clock when Casa Grande took possession at its own 20-yard line following a San Marin punt into the end zone.

There was little trickery involved in the Gaucho attack. They just gave the ball to Matt Herrera and let him run through cracks in the San Marin defense opened by a suddenly revitalized Casa front line. Seven times Herrera sprinted forward, ripping off gains ranging from 2 to 22 yards.

When the Gauchos reached the San Marin 4-yard line for a first down, and just 22 seconds left, Casa victory looked like a lock.

But a fluttering flag did the Gauchos in.

Robertson and McHale hooked up on a scoring pass from the 4-yard line, but the receiver was ruled to have pushed off and the ball was backed up all the way to the 19-yard line.

A third-down pass was incomplete to set up the hectic finish — the Casa kick that wasn’t, the final desperation incomplete fourth-down pass, the overtime and San Marin’s game-winning field goal.

The loss dropped Casa Grande to 1-2 for the season going into a Friday night game at Maria Carrillo in Santa Rosa. The win improved San Marin to 2-1 as the Mustangs open Marin County Athletic League play at home, hopefully Friday night at Terra Linda. The date of that game is dependent on the Mustangs working out the politics to turn on their recently installed lights.

A bright spot for Casa Grande was the continued development of its running game. Led by Herrera, who had 115 yards on a workhorse 22 carries, the Gauchos rushed for 205 yards.

Defensively, Kasper had a sensational game, grabbing the two interceptions and fumble recovery, while making 16 tackles, three unassisted.

San Marin won the junior varsity game, 29-16.

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