The Napa High football team came out strong in its Vine Valley Athletic League clash Friday night at Memorial Stadium, but visiting Casa Grande used its punishing running attack to grind out a 41-27 comeback win.
“We put up points tonight, but we came up a little short,” Napa head coach Tom Petithomme said.
The Grizzlies (0-8, 0-4 VVAL) had everyone in the stadium wondering if this would be the night the losing streak would be broken, by roaring out to a 13-0 lead in the first quarter. Napa had the game’s first possession and drove 80 yards before quarterback Isaiah Newton scored on a 1-yard plunge at the 8:06 mark. The key play was a 47-yard scamper by running back Chase LaRue.
Napa’s Brock Bowers made his presence known on offense and defense in the loss. Bowers set up the Grizzlies’ second touchdown with an interception as he was closing in on Gaucho quarterback Jadon Bosarge.
“I had a couple of knockdowns and two picks tonight,” noted the tall sophomore. “I just to try to get my hands up on defense and bring pressure.”
Thanks to the interception, Napa took over on the Casa Grande 35 and drove it in for the score with 1:31 left in the quarter on a 5-yard pass from Newton to a wide-open Kalani Posey. The extra point try was missed, but Napa had to like its chances going into the second quarter.
“We’re getting a little better every week and the offensive line played well tonight,” said Petithomme.
Unfortunately for the Grizzlies, the visitors turned it around in the second quarter and continued the onslaught in the second half.
The Gauchos’ second scoring drive was particularly painful for Napa. A pass interference call against Napa near its own goal line set up a 1-yard scoring run by Jordan Gramajo, and suddenly it was 13-7 with 9:44 left in the second quarter.
On the Gauchos’ next scoring drive, the Grizzlies’ defense made two critical errors when it looked like it had Casa Grande (3-5, 3-1 VVAL) stopped. The first was an encroachment call on Napa when Casa Grande had its punt team on the field. The penalty moved the ball close enough to a first down that the Gauchos recalled their punt team, and their offense was able to easily pick up the required 2 yards.
Later in the drive, the Napa defense stiffened and had Casa Grande setting up to attempt a short field goal. But the Gauchos reached into their bag of tricks, as kicker Ian McKissick took the direct snap and strolled around left end for the tying 5-yard touchdown.
When Napa went into the locker room with the game tied, it must have felt like whatever momentum the Grizzlies had was gone.
In the third quarter, Casa Grande took control with two touchdowns by the mid-point of the third quarter to make it four unanswered scores and a 27-13 lead.
The Grizzlies came back to cut the lead to a single touchdown on a nifty 27-yard pass from Newton to Diego Olvera. Napa had a chance to get even closer after taking over on downs at its own 35. Unfortunately for the hosts, a Newton pass was intercepted and the Gauchos cashed in with their third touchdown of the quarter, on an 18-yard run by Bosarge.
Napa scored the final touchdown of the game on Bowers’ leaping catch of a Newton pass in the corner of the end zone.
“Isaiah threw me a perfect ball on a fade-comeback play and I was able to come down with it,” Bowers said.
“Brock is a phenom,” said Petithomme. “That kid is unbelievable.”
Newton had a strong night on the ground with 98 yards with a touchdown on 14 attempts. His passing stats were mixed, 18 for 30 for 173 yards with two TDs, but also two interceptions.
Petithomme pointed out that this is a new offense with a new blocking scheme for Napa.
“It takes time. They’re playing hard and slowly grasping this offense week by week,” he said, adding that the Grizzlies just need to improve their play inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. “When you get down in the red zone, you have to punch it in, and there were a couple of times we didn’t do that.”
Petithomme singled out receiver Jack Giguiere for making the play of the game, a one-handed grab. “That was one of the best catches I’ve ever seen in high school football ,” the coach said. “He laid out, got his fingertips on it, and somehow brought it in. It was unbelievable.”
The Grizzlies travel to Petaluma High next Friday night.
Napa JV 31, Casa Grande 13
The Grizzlies broke open a close game in the second half with three unanswered touchdowns to improve to 6-2 overall. Aiden McDonald scored on a 2-yard quarterback keeper with 6:45 remaining in the third to extend the Napa lead to 28-13.
McDonald later flipped a 20-yard touchdown pass to Spencer Gorman to make it 34-13. Benito Saldivar scored the Grizzlies’ final touchdown on a 1-yard run.