CASA GRANDE — On Wednesday, Casa Grande Union coach Jake Barro said the one thing his team couldn’t do in Friday’s game at Vista Grande was start slowly. Message received.
The Cougars (4-2, 1-0 4A Kino) burst out of the gate with three touchdowns in the first quarter and led 35-0 at the half on their way to a 56-7 win over the intracity rival Spartans (0-7, 0-2).
CG Union sophomore quarterback Angel Flores threw three touchdown passes and ran for another, and running back DJ Johnson added three touchdowns of his own in a dominant victory.
Despite the Spartans’ struggles this season, Flores said it was a good performance from the Cougars.
“To play like this, it’s a big accomplishment because anybody can be beaten at any given time,” said Flores, who completed 9 of 16 passes for 247 yards. “I’m just glad that we stuck together and played as a team.”
Flores said the most important thing for CG Union heading into the game was staying focused and not letting the noise and distractions of rivalry week get in the way.
The Cougars jumped all over the Spartans early, scoring three touchdowns in the first 8:11 of the game. Johnson scored on a 20-yard run, Flores then hit Cole Auza with a beautifully thrown deep ball down the middle for a 55-yard score, and cornerback Jahmier Haman picked off a tipped pass and ran it back 40 yards for a touchdown to give CG Union a 21-0 lead.
Johnson would add scoring runs of 6 yards and 1 yard in the second half, as he finished with six carries for 44 yards. Flores scored on a 37-yard run up the middle in the first minute of the third quarter.
Cougars coach Jake Barro was pleased that his team started fast and executed well from the beginning. He had a couple of critiques about not playing quite as hard in the second half.
“The message at halftime was we still have to play at the same level; we can’t let up,” he said. “I felt like we did a little bit, but for the most part it was a pretty good, complete game.”
Vista Grande tried to establish the run early, but to no avail. The Spartans had minus-5 rushing yards at the half. Quarterback Donald Altaffer shouldered the load, completing 17 of 30 passes for 162 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
“We were going to try and shorten the game a little bit (by running the ball),” Spartans coach Chris Semore said.
“Then we had a turnover there, and we had a couple of turnovers early, and they capitalized on it, and so we had to throw it to get back in it.”
Semore said losing in that fashion to CG Union stings a little more than the average loss.
“It does, sure,” he said. “But we still have a lot of season left, and we can’t dwell on it for very long … what happened happened, and we’re gonna move on and get better.”
Vista Grande scored its only touchdown in the fourth quarter on a 13-yard pass from Altaffer to Roberto Barrera.
Explosive plays from CG Union receivers had a big impact on the game. Cole Auza caught three balls for 80 yards and a TD, and Darrell Penn had two catches for 98 yards and a score. RJ Keeton also caught a 16-yard TD from Flores in the fourth quarter.
And the Cougars defense came to play, especially Haman, who had a sack and the pick six.
“He’s able to adjust quickly on a route,” Barro said. He’s one of those few guys that can step the wrong way and then recover and still pick a ball off and take it all the way back. Not a lot of guys can do that.”
CG Union has a big challenge next week against Tucson Salpointe Catholic (5-0, 1-0), while Vista Grande hosts Tucson Catalina Foothills (2-4, 0-1).