CASA GRANDE — Trailing 21-7 with 4:58 remaining in the second quarter, the Casa Grande Union football team was down but far from out in Friday night’s Class 4A state tournament play-in game against Lake Havasu at Al Van Hazel Stadium.
RJ Keeton ran for six touchdowns as the second-seeded Cougars came roaring back to notch a 62-28 victory that put them in the quarterfinals for the second straight season. Quarterback Angel Flores scored three TDs for CG Union (6-1), which rushed for 455 of its 536 total yards.
“We didn’t play like us in the first half,” said CG Union coach Jake Barro. “We came out and played really bad. But I’m really proud of how the guys stepped up and answered the call.”
The Cougars, who will host next week’s quarterfinal game against a yet-to-be-determined opponent, stung the 15th-seeded Knights (4-4) for 21 points in both the second and third quarters and tacked on 20 in the final period.
“Our offensive line had a great night and once the defense stepped up and started playing, we shut them down,” Barro said.
Lake Havasu failed to reach the end zone in its last six possessions after scoring on four of its first six. Andon Eager, Jacob Thomas and Justin Campbell each had one interception for the Cougars, who also stopped the Knights on downs twice in the second half.
Keeton began his touchdown barrage with a 44-yard run that cut Lake Havasu’s lead to 14-7 with 9:21 left in the second quarter. Next came a 20-yard run with 3:32 remaining in the second that reduced the deficit to 21-14.
His third-quarter TDs came on runs of 21 yards with 11:13 left and 3 yards with four seconds remaining in the third to put the Cougars up 42-28. Keeton also had touchdown runs of 3 and 17 yards in the fourth quarter.
Flores put CG Union ahead to stay at 35-28 on a 50-yard TD run with 8:37 to play in the third period. His other scoring runs covered 32 and 8 yards.
“That’s what needed to happen,” Barro said of the performances by Keeton and Flores. “You count on your big-time guys to make big-time plays.”
Isaac Stopke scored Lake Havasu’s first three touchdowns on runs of 2 and 21 yards and a 6-yard reception from Donny Fitzgerald. The Knights’ first possession of the third quarter ended with Fitzgerald throwing an 84-yard TD pass to Cody Pellaton that produced a 28-28 tie with 10:16 left.
Lake Havasu rushed for 215 yards in the first half but gained just 58 on the ground in the last two quarters. The Knights racked up 439 total yards, with Fitzgerald throwing for 166.
The outcome was quite a bit closer than when the teams met in Week 2 of the regular season. The Cougars prevailed 52-7 in that matchup.
CG Union raised its record to 3-9 in postseason games.