A pair of 5-yard penalties pretty much ruined the Casa Grande football team’s chance to close the season with a two-game winning streak.
Both were for illegal touching on completed passes, and they loomed large in a 23-12 loss to Skyline Friday night.
The first wiped out Nick Elliott’s 6-yard touchdown throw that would have extended the Cougars’ 12-10 halftime lead, and the second negated Anthony Mitchell’s completion of 30-plus yards that would have given them a first down deep in Skyline territory midway through the fourth quarter.
After the second penalty, the Coyotes drove 46 yards in four plays for a touchdown that put them ahead to stay with 5:36 left. Casa Grande’s next possession ended with an interception, and Skyline capitalized by marching 59 yards in nine plays for the clinching TD with 59.5 seconds remaining.
“It’s really disappointing because those two (calls) turned the game around,” Casa Grande coach Keith Brown said. “It was right there for the taking. I would have loved for the outcome to be different to send the seniors out on a high note. Obviously this leaves us with a bitter taste in our mouths.”
Both of the key penalties were called on the same receiver. On both catches, he was not in the backfield when the ball was snapped after he lined up in the slot.
“I’m still not totally sure,” Brown said. “I’d have to see the film to see if he was covered up or not.”
Casa Grande ended the season with a 1-9 overall record and went 0-6 in the Class 5A East Valley Region. The win was the first of the season for Skyline, which finished at 1-10 overall and 1-5 in the region.
Tramel Jones rushed for 195 yards on 29 carries for the Cougars, who had a 268-244 advantage in total yards. Jones, normally a wide receiver, was called on to handle the load after Elliott and Daniel Duran were knocked out of the game with injuries.
“We moved the ball even though we lost our two running backs,” Brown said. “We put Tramel back there and he did a great job.”
Casa Grande had turnovers on two of its first three possessions. The first was a fumble that halted their initial series at the Skyline 33, and the second was an interception that gave the Coyotes possession at the CG 38.
The interception led to quarterback Chad Leonard sneaking across from the 1 to cap a 10-play drive with 8:32 remaining in the second quarter.
The Cougars closed within 7-6 with 2:39 left in the first half on a 2- yard touchdown run by Jones, who gained 74 yards on eight carries during the 13-play, 84-yard drive. Jones had runs of 15, 14 and 27 yards along the way, and quarterback Anthony Mitchell scrambled for 21 yards.
Jones’ fumble recovery at the Skyline 24 led to Jack Miller’s 3-yard TD run that put the Cougars up 12-7 with 43.2 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
The Coyotes still had enough time to drive 31 yards to the Casa Grande 27 and get a 45-yard field goal from Brandon Whitney with 3.5 seconds left.
Casa Grande began the second half by taking 11 plays to drive from its 11 to a first-and-goal at the 9. But the illegal touching penalty took away the touchdown on third down, and the fourth down pass was incomplete.
Leonard’s 15-yard touchdown pass to Tanner Thomas on Skyline’s third possession of the second half gave the Coyotes a 16-12 lead, and Leonard scored the final touchdown on a 6-yard run.
Miller recovered a fumble for the Cougars. They had three sacks — one apiece by Anthony Vidal, Logan McCormack and Zack Gutierrez.