CASA GRANDE — Vista Grande was riding the highest of highs after its season opening 63-12 win over Tucson Cholla, the week after they were knocked off of Cloud 9 by Waddell Canyon View.
According to head coach Jon Roberts, the team licked their wounds and then turned their attention to Phoenix Shadow Mountain last week and grabbed the win, 70-24.
The Spartans (2-1) are aiming to not make it a habit of taking a tough loss following a blowout win as they travel to San Tan Foothills (0-5) on Friday.
Vista Grande’s run game was on full display last week as the Spartans were led by senior Tyrese Constable last week as he rushed for 281 yard on 12 carries and scored five of his touchdown on the rushing attack.
Freshman Fernando Moya added two touchdowns on 10 carries for 126 yards and Kenyon Caldwell became the third running option for the Spartans as Arnold Castro is out with a knee injury.
Caldwell had seven carries for 100 yards and scored one touchdown.
Through three games the Spartans have racked up over 1,000 rushing yards in establishing their ground game, the focus this week is to establish sophomore quarterback Darnell Castro’s passing game.
Castro has only attempted 23 passes and complete 11 of them for 98 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
“We have to get better at throwing the ball,” Roberts said. “We haven’t really been able to catch a rhythm throwing the ball. We’ve been more of a run dominant focus on offense, that’s fine and dandy when you’re putting up points on the board but we have to get ready because it’s going to get a lot harder with our schedule. We need a little more balance.”
Roberts added that defensively, the team is working on making adjustments to minimize opponents making big plays. Last week, Shadow Mountain quarterback Nico Alvarez connected on four passes of 30-yards or more, two of which were touchdown passes.
The Matadors did most of the damage in the first half, as Vista Grande made some adjustments and got some big spots in the back field by Angel Chaydez and Jonathan Ventura.
“They’ve been working hard,” Roberts said. “We’ve been working on getting the same type of penetration that we saw against Canyon View but actually finishing. Each week we’ve been learning one more step to make us more and more complete. Against Canyon View it didn’t show because of the score, but when we saw film both of those guys were getting back there, they were just running past the running back and the quarterback on the mesh. ... That’s what you saw against Shadow Mountain, they worked on things they needed to correct from the week before and it paid off.”
San Tan Foothills has struggled to establish a run game in the first half of the season and has relied on senior quarterback Brett Lincoln to be the offensive spark.
The Sabercats have been on a coaching carousel for the past years and have struggled to find an identity.
“They’re a good team,” Roberts said. “They’ve had numerous new head coaches but they’re overall a good team, they’re just trying to find themselves.”
First-year head coach Mike Carlin previously told PinalCentral that one of the challenges is the fact that there has essentially been a different coach every year.
“It’s really like starting a brand new program,” Carlin said. “There’s things in place, but not what you would expect from a football program.”
San Tan Foothills was blanked by district rival Florence, 24-0, last week in the Gila River Bowl.
The Sabercats struggled to move the ball against the Gophers as they punted the ball away five times and turned the ball over on downs in their opening drive, and also fumbled the ball on their own 23-yard line.
After the game Carlin stated, “We just have to go back to the drawing board and get better.”
Vista Grande’s pressure-based defense will look to limit Lincoln’s time in the pocket and force some turnovers, but the biggest focus will be on balancing out the offense and playing a complete game on both sides of the ball.
“Overall we just need this game to be a complete game on both sides of the ball, without taking a half to get there,” Roberts said. “That’s the goal this week. Can we win? Of course, but can we play a complete game on both sides of the ball and special teams. ... We’re about 95% run right now and we can’t sustain that going forward throughout the entire season.”