CASA GRANDE — Halfway through the season and it’s difficult to assess where this year’s Vista Grande football team stands on the spectrum.

Through four games the Spartans have either won by blowouts or lost by a large margin and currently hold a 2-2 record, after canceling last week’s game against Tucson Amphitheater as a COVID precaution.

One of the players on the team tested positive on the team and others were out due to the close contact rule. The Spartans had already dealt with a COVID outbreak to start the season, so the team decided to stop all team activities for a week in an attempt to avoid another outbreak.

Vista Grande succeeded in stopping another outbreak and is nearly back at 100% this week, which also includes the return of running back Arnold Castro who missed the past couple of games due to a leg injury.

Castro rushed for 75 yards and three touchdowns on 11 carries during the Spartans’ season opener against Tucson Cholla on Sept. 10.

In the next game against Waddell Canyon View, the senior only saw three carries for negative yardage before he left the game in the first quarter with the leg injury.

Head coach Jon Roberts expect Castro to play most of his minutes on defense and a few reps at running back.

Roberts added that most of the running load will be handled by freshman Fernando Moya, senior Kenyon Caldwell and sophomore Izaya Talbo-Herrera.

Offensively the Spartans are still trying to find a balance and trying to establish a passing game.

“We can’t be a one trick pony because if we are then what will happen is teams will just load the box and they’ll end up stopping us,” Roberts said.

The goal set for sophomore quarterback Darnell Castro is to try complete between 10-15 passes.

“We just have to simulate game time situations,” Roberts said. “We’ve been putting a lot of pressure on him this week and showing him how to deal with that pressure. He doesn’t have the reps that you might see with a senior quarterback. He’s been doing pretty well with it, the good thing is he’s only played organized football for two years so there aren’t any bad habits yet, its just developing the habits that we need him to get.”

Following the 63-12 win over Cholla, the Spartans were blanked by Canyon View 34-0. They bounced back with a 70-24 win over Phoenix Shadow Mountain the week after and then were crushed by San Tan Foothills 55-18.

“I can’t sugar coat it because this whole year we have not found a middle ground yet,” Roberts said. “I think once we find that middle ground and we get our rhythm, we’re going to be a pretty good team and we’ll be a pretty good team for the next couple of years because we are so young. But when you’re winning big and then you lose, there’s no middle ground.”

This week Vista Grande will travel to Phoenix Sierra Linda (4-2). The Bulldogs are led by senior quarterback Carlos Montoya and senior running back Joshua Berg-Nabors.

Berg-Nabors leads the ground game with 687 yards and 11 touchdowns. Montoya is one of three quarterbacks for the Bulldogs and has seen the most action with over 1,100 passing yards, 11 touchdowns, four interceptions and a 58% completion rate.

Sierra Linda has three receivers with over 430 receiving yards and nearly 30 catches each. Stephon Daily leads the trio with eight touchdowns and 559 receiving yards.

“It’s 100% mental with us right now,” Roberts said. “I think for the remainder of the schedule it’s going to be 100% mental, if our kids come mentally ready and I don’t mean mentally ready to play the game, I think it’s mentally ready to hit some adversity. It’s going to come down to how we deal to adversity, that will determine the outcome of this game. It’s about effort and how we respond to adversity, I don’t think it’s ever going to be ability.”

The Spartans will look to upset the No. 24 Bulldogs during their homecoming to kick off regional play in the 4A Copper Sky.

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Maria Vasquez is the Sports Editor for PinalCentral. She can be reached at mvasquez@pinalcentral.com.

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