MARICOPA — The homecoming game at Maricopa High School was all about the away team, as the Casa Grande Union Cougars dominated in all facets on the field to hand the Rams their first loss of the season.
For the first time in the programs’ five-game history, the Cougars (3-0) defeated the Rams (2-1), controlling the game from start to finish. CG Union’s one-two punch of quarterback Angel Flores and running back RJ Keeton were in top form, taking turns dominating on offense and leading the way to a 55-0 final.
Keeton led all rushers with 110 yards and three touchdowns, while Flores dazzled with his deep throws, finishing 10-12 for 294 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He also ran 47 yards with a touchdown.
“We were really balanced throughout the game, and that’s always nice to put on film,” said CG Union coach Jake Barro. “Last week, we kinda just ran it down their throat, but this week we took our time and showed a lot more of our playbook.”
For much of the first quarter, the ball stayed on the Rams’ side of the field, as they had two consecutive punts not get very far. This set up good field position for the Cougars, and in each of his first two touches, Keeton got a touchdown. It took just over four minutes of game time, but CG Union was already up 14-0.
After that, though, it was time for Flores to show off. On the Cougars’ third drive, he threw for 72 yards and ran for 13, finishing with an 11-yard touchdown to Kelley to end the first quarter. Then in the second, he found Kelley deep again for a 61-yard touchdown.
“We game prepped really well and watched a lot of film,” Flores said. “We had a good scout defense, so everything we practiced, it was the same out here. It was just really easy coming out here and being on the same page.”
Meanwhile, the extent to which the Rams could move the ball largely depended on how many mistakes the Cougars would make. Indeed, their best chance to score came early in the second quarter after Keeton lost a fumble in Ram territory, and a series of penalties helped Maricopa get to the 12-yard line. However, a fourth-down pass attempt was spoiled by tough pressure from the CG Union defense, and they turned it over on downs.
“We just need to keep learning,” said Maricopa coach Rick Skinner. “That’s a great example of a veteran team who has been together for a while. And you can tell. They’re a really good team, and they’re going to go far in the playoffs. We know they’re a really good program, and that’s where we want to get to. We want to get to that level of play.”
By the end of the first half, the Rams’ defense seemed to be worn down by the Cougar offensive onslaught, as Keeton practically walked into the endzone for his third touchdown of the game. With the game out of hand, Skinner decided to play it safe and took out starting quarterback Damian Logan in the second quarter, replaced by Devin Huffman.
Up 35-0, the Cougars kept their foot on the gas pedal in the second half until they got the clock running. Flores got his first rushing touchdown of the night to start the third, then made multiple connections with Anthony Flores, including his best throw of the night — a 32-yarder to the back of the endzone for his final score.
The CG Union defense never let off, though. They forced four turnovers throughout the game, including two interceptions by Andon Diaz, the second of which he returned for a touchdown.
“They balled out,” Flores said about the defense. “Coach Dom (Henderson), our defensive coordinator, he does a great job putting together our defense and our guys just fly around making plays. It makes it easy on our defense getting the ball back.”
The only blemish of the game for the Cougars came from penalties, including numerous unsportsmanlike conduct and personal foul rulings that kept pushing them back or keeping Ram drives alive.
“We definitely need to talk about it, but I don’t know,” Barro said. “Some of them were stuff that might not have been called if the game wasn’t as bad as it was. But you have to address it.”
Maricopa now goes into a bye week before they face Phoenix Camelback, which one its first game of the season on Friday. The team has now taken its first big punch of the season, and the coaches are waiting to see how they respond.
“I expect them to work their butts off,” Skinner said. “We’re going to get a lot of things straightened out, and hopefully we come out and execute everything we’ve worked so hard against Camelback.”
The Cougars, meanwhile, will return home Friday to face Chandler Seton Catholic (2-1). They’re undefeated and they still have their eyes on a state championship. The seniors know not to lose focus.
“Right now, I feel like we haven’t done anything,” Flores said. “None of us are satisfied, we’re all hungry. Obviously, we want to enjoy our wins and have fun, but at the same time, we know we have bigger goals than just these couple games.”