CASA GRANDE — Deandray Kelley returned an interception 100 yards for a touchdown as the first half expired, and the Casa Grande Union football team overcame six turnovers to defeat Glendale Deer Valley 33-17 in the opening round of the Class 4A state playoffs Friday night at Al Van Hazel Stadium.
The second-seeded Cougars improved to 10-0 to match the best record in the 91-year history of the program. They will host 10th-seeded Phoenix St. Mary’s (8-3) in next week’s quarterfinals.
“It was good to get out of this with a win,” CG Union coach Jake Barro said. “Even with the turnovers, we wound up getting it done. But we have a lot to clean up.”
RJ Keeton rushed for 221 yards and three touchdowns for the Cougars, who outgained the 15th-seeded Skyhawks 425-343 in total yards. Deer Valley (7-4) came in averaging 41.3 points per game.
“The defense had a good night,” Barro said.
Kelley’s huge interception return TD gave CG Union a 21-10 halftime lead. The pick came with Deer Valley at the Cougars’ 18-yard line.
“We needed that bad for momentum purposes,” Barro said.
Deer Valley attempted 43 passes, completing 25 for 255 yards. One went for a 51-yard touchdown on an option pass from Ty Thomas to Steve Magnusson following CG Union’s first turnover, which was a muffed punt. That trimmed the Cougars’ lead to 14-10 with 4:07 remaining in the second quarter.
The Cougars reached the end zone on their first two possessions. Keeton had a 62-yard run on their first play from scrimmage, and Angel Flores capped the six-play, 87-yard drive with a 5-yard quarterback keeper to put CG Union up 7-0 with 4:48 left in the first quarter. Their next series covered 90 yards in seven plays. Keeton scored from 2 yards out, two plays after catching a 51-yard pass from Flores.
Keeton also had both of CG Union’s second-half touchdowns, scoring on a 9-yard run with 4:42 remaining in the third quarter and on a 28-yard run with 7:21 left in the fourth.
CG Union’s last TD came two plays after after Deer Valley quarterback Rudy Gonzales scored on a 5-yard run to cap an 80-yard, 10-play drive with 7:55 to play.
Zion Gomez made an interception at the CG Union 13 to end Deer Valley’s first possession.
The Skyhawks marched 73 yards to the CG Union 5 on their second possession, but had to settle for Tanner Bobic’s 22-yard field goal after getting a first-and-goal at the 7.
The Cougars rushed for 281 yards and Flores completed 5 of 7 passes for 144 yards.
CG Union had last week off, which may have contributed to their up-and-down offensive performance.
“It’s tough going 14 days without playing a game,” Barro said. “We couldn’t capitalize often enough when we had positive drives.”
The Cougars lost fumbles at the Deer Valley 32 and 20 and another at midfield. The other fumble resulted in a touchback after Luke Luna blocked a punt.
Flores threw his first interception of the season on a first-and-goal play from the 11 with 3:22 remaining.
The game was delayed for 23 minutes in the fourth quarter when a Deer Valley player sustained an apparent head injury and taken off the field in an ambulance.