TUCSON — During the postgame huddle, Casa Grande Union coach Jake Barro told his team that he wasn’t angry about the final score, he was disappointed because things could have gone the Cougars’ way.
CG Union lost to Salpointe Catholic 29-21 in its season opener, as there were some costly turnovers that could have changed the outcome.
“The focus was to be smart with the football and not turn it over,” Barro said of the focus at practice this week. “We lost that tonight. When you lose the turnover battle your chances of wining are not very good, and that’s what happened tonight. That was the focus, and I felt like we were prepared but unfortunately we didn’t get it done.”
The first turnover came in the second quarter after quarterback Angel Flores was picked off by Kam Grambell for a 35-yard touchdown.
On the extra point kick, the Cougars were called for a roughing the kicker which gave the Lancers an easy run for the two-point conversion and also gave them a 15-7 lead.
The other key moment came in the third quarter with 1:47 remaining on the clock.
CG Union fumbled the kickoff return, which was recovered by Salpointe Catholic’s Mason Sanchez at the 20-yard line.
The Cougars defense did a solid job from keeping the Lancers out of the end zone and forced a field goal attempt by Owen Lynch, which hit the upright and kept the game at 29-14.
CG Union opened the final quarter with a long drive led by Flores and Derrick Kuykendall pounding the ground for 62 yards combined, as Flores scored on a 1-yard run to make it 29-21.
“I like the effort and the heart was there, the kids worked hard and we fought all the way to the end,” Barro said. “There was a whole lot of positive out of this especially you play a team of this caliber, this tough and there are positives to take away. I saw a lot of good things from our guys as far as the effort and how hard they worked and how they fought all four quarters.”
The Cougars controlled majority of the first quarter with Flores’ passing game and Kuykendall running the ball.
With 42.8 remaining on a 4th down and long, the Lancers were called for pass interference, which brought CG Union inside the 10-yard line.
Flores capped off the drive with an 8-yard run for the 7-0 lead.
Salpointe Catholic responded on the following drive as quarterback Treyson Bourguet connected with Elijah Barclay a 35-yard touchdown and tied the game.
CG Union’s other scoring drive came in the third quarter on a 27-yard Jacob Thomas run.
The Cougars were without starting running back RJ Keeton due to a strained Achilles tendon.
“He was a game-time decision,” Barro said. “We weren’t sure what it was going to be, we watched him jog, cut, move and it was just our discretion, he wasn’t moving very well. We hope to have him next week.”
Barro added that Kuykendall and Thomas did a good job filling in for Keeton.
Leading the way for the Lancers was David Cordero with 111 rushing yards on 16 carries and one touchdown.
For the Cougars Flores had 21 carries for 142 yards and two touchdowns.
Kuykendall had 67 rushing yards on 11 carries, and Demetrius Garrett had six receptions for 79 yards.