When Montgomery travels to Casa Grande to decide one berth in the NCS Division 2 championship Saturday night, one of the best rivalries will resume too.
The fact that it it is a playoff game adds some spice to a rivalry that doesn’t need spice.
When these two teams meet it is usually a big deal. Before realignment, the two teams were the highlight of the pre-league schedule. Two of the best programs in the area would meet the third game of the season. It was the week before the league season and it was like an appetizer before the main course.
The first time the teams met it wasn’t expected. That was in the 2001 NCS Semi-Final game. Montgomery was defending section champion while Casa Grande was an up and coming team that won its first SCL championship. Montgomery won the game 13-10 to advance to the NCS Championship, which they lost to Rancho Cotate 28-23.
In part because of that game the team’s agreed to make it a yearly game.
The first regular season game was played on September 26th, 2003. Locally it wasn’t that big of deal. KSRO was doing the Game of the Week and that night picked the Cardinal Newman-Healdsburg game which, Cardinal Newman won 18-6.
It would be the last time the two teams met and it wasn’t a big deal. Casa Grande won the game 28-27. Pat Pezet hit Matt Hinds on a 27 yard touchdown pass with eleven seconds left and then hit Andrian Barajas for a two point conversion to give Casa Grande the win. The score came finished an 80 yard drive that started with 1:20 left. Montgomery had just scored a touchdown to apparently put the game away. A blocked extra point kept it a seven point game.
The names in the series are legends at the schools. There is Marcus Ezeff and Koa Misi for Montgomery, to Joe Trombetta and Nick Sherry for Casa Grande just to name a few.
In 2004 they met twice, with Montgomery winning both. The second game was in the NCS Championship game with Ezeff and Misi scoring touchdowns in a 23-10 win.
In the beginning it seemed to be a rule that the games had to be close. From 2005-2009 there was one game that was decided by more than seven points.
In 2005 Montgomery rallied late to take a 21-18 win despite a 166 yard, two touchdown game by Trombetta.
Before the OT rule they played to ties in both 2007 and 2008. Montgomery rallied from 17-3 down in the fourth quarter to get the first tie. There was no rally in the second tie because there was no scoring. That’s right it ended in a 0-0 tie.
Casa Grande quarterback JaJuan Lawson, who will start Saturday’s game, has already had a dramatic moment in the series. When he was a sophomore he hit Steven Bentley with :22 left to give Casa Grande a 14-10 win in the 2011 game. They would meet again in the NCS playoff in which Casa Grande won its first playoff game against Montgomery 23-14.
Casa Grande is 9-5-2 against Montgomery over the years and hasn’t lost a game in the series since that 2009 NCS Semi-Final Game.
Since that first meeting in 2001, the landscape of the local football world has changed. The North Coast Section is different as is the North Bay League.
That Pat Pezet touchdown pass and two point conversion in 2003 put Casa Grande on the map and they have been on it ever since with one of the best programs in the area.
At the time, Montgomery was one of the best programs in the area led by Jason Franci, who would go on to be the winningest local coach in area history.
Montgomery is back after finishing under .500 four of the last five seasons.
It is not surprising that to greet them on its return is Casa Grande.
The two teams open NBL play after a 3-0 start.
The game started out the way last week’s Casa Grande win over Windsor with the Gauchos dominating. Lawson scored on touchdowns of 87 and 29 yard runs as they took a 21-0 second quarter lead.
Unlike last week’s win over Windsor where Casa Grande dominated from start to finish, Montgomery played even the rest of the way even, although they never threatened in a 30-12 loss.
That was the game that Viking quarterback Elijah Higgs separated his shoulder. RJ Flores has been starting quarterback since and has passed for over 1,300 yards and has thrown 15 touchdowns and three interceptions.
Higgs has been back the last three weeks as a wide receiver and has caught 9 balls for 142 yards and has scored a touchdown in each of the playoff wins.
That threat gives teams more to worry about than Running Back Logan Francavilla, who has rushed for over 1,600 yards and 24 touchdowns.
Casa Grande has a triple offensive threat. Two of those threats are one. That is Lawson who can hurt a team with his arms and legs. He is 79 yards short of a 2,000 yard passing season and has thrown 22 touchdowns and only one interception in 189 passes. He is also 40 yards from hitting the 1,000 yard mark and has scored 13 touchdowns.
Lawson is actually a third threat when they are on defense. As a part time player he has intercepted two passes.
The other threat is running back John Porchivina, who has over 1,300 yards and fourteen touchdowns. Included is a school record 301 yard game in the league win over Windsor.
In the regular season game:
Flores after coming in the second quarter was 7-12 for 99 yards.
Francavilla nineteen carries for 63 yards and two touchdowns.
Marcus’ younger brother Etienne Ezeff caught five balls for 85 yards including one for 59.
Lawson was 10-15 for 118 yards and a touchdown passing and rushed the ball 12 times for 188 yards and three touchdowns, nearly half of that on the 87 yard run which made it 14-0.
Porchivina carried the ball 21 times for 98 yards.
Casa Grande has scored at least 30 points in all but one game, which was a second week 12-7 win over Heritage. They are averaging 37.7 points a game, which is the best in the NBL. They are also the No. 1 scoring defense giving up 14.4.
Montgomery is No. 3 in scoring offense averaging 31.3 a game and No. 2 in scoring defense giving up 17.7.
The winner of this game will meet the winner of the Miramonte-Clayton Valley game for the NCS Championship.
NCS DIVISION 2 SEMI-FINAL GAME
NO. 4 MONTGOMERY (10-2) AT NO. 1 CASA GRANDE (12-0)
SATURDAY 7 PM
BROADCAST TIME 6:30 ON KSRO 1350
CAL PREPS PROJECTION: CASA GRANDE BY 14
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