CASA GRANDE — Just six days after opening the season, Casa Grande Union will be back on the field Thursday for its second game.
The Cougars will be part of a Thursday night showcase game against the Lake Havasu Knights. One Thursday game is being live streamed each week by the JV Sports Show.
CG Union (0-1) lost a tight game, 29-21, to perennial power Tucson Salpointe Catholic in Week 1. Lake Havasu (0-1) was handily defeated in a 48-26 loss to Glendale.
Salpointe Catholic had a player test positive for COVID-19 after the CG Union game, but Cougars coach Jake Barro said it appears no one on his team was exposed, adding the team is ready to move forward.
“I think what really helped us was all the precautions that were taken,” he said, noting the fact that there was no hand-shaking with the other players, and CG Union didn’t use the Salpointe Catholic locker room or other facilities.
Playing a high-level opponent like the Lancers in Week 1 is just what Barro wants in trying to take the Cougars to the next level. He wants to play the best teams; he said it’s the best way to prepare for the state playoffs.
“It was a good measuring stick for us,” he said. “Even though we lost, we played really well ... It was good for us.”
CG Union’s star quarterback Angel Flores completed 10 of 18 passes for 114 yards with an interception. His biggest impact in the game came with his ability to run, as he totaled 142 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Flores didn’t have much time to throw because of a ferocious Salpointe Catholic defensive front putting extensive pressure on him, Barro said. But he added Flores “ran the ball great and kept us in it.”
The defense was a strong point for CG Union, as senior linebacker Jacob Thomas led the way with 15 tackles and 0.5 sacks.
Barro said his offense has the potential to be “explosive,” and he expects to see that potential start to take flight Thursday against Lake Havasu.
The Cougars are likely to get running back RJ Keeton on the field for the first time this season. He missed Week 1 with a strained Achilles tendon. Keeton is a versatile, athletic player who Barro said is a key to unlocking the more extensive playbook he wants to use this season.
As for the Knights, Barro said senior quarterback Donny Fitzgerald is the focal point of their offense. He expects the Cougars to have some success in shutting him down. Glendale held Fitzgerald to just 5-of-18 passing for 100 yards and two picks. But Fitzgerald was also Lake Havasu’s leading rusher with 68 yards and a TD.
Thursday’s game will be senior night for Casa Grande. Most schools are using their first home game to have senior night since a full season is not guaranteed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
And then there’s the added factor of playing Thursday night, which is a foreign concept to most coaches and players in Arizona. There are positives and negatives.
“It’s a positive for the program because ... you’re the only show in the state of Arizona,” Barro said. “It showcases the team.”
From a coaching standpoint, he said a Thursday game is tough because it’s a short week of preparation, and the players have one less day to physically recover from the previous week’s game.
Barro wants to see the Cougars play sharp and disciplined football Thursday, with crisp execution.
“We want to make sure we improve proportionally as a team (each week),” he said.