NorCal Junior Lawson Enters 2012 with Pac-12 Pedigree

QB JaJuan Lawson
QB JaJuan Lawson

Casa Grande (CA) junior JaJuan Lawson (6’2, 195 lbs.) gained valuable experience in 2011 as a starter for the Gauchos in Petaluma. After leading them to a 7-3 record and a win in the North Coast Section playoffs, he had his team on the brink of a second win there.

Only a 42-35 loss to Rancho Cotate in late November prevented the Gauchos from continuing their postseason quest, but it’s a game Lawson could avenge with scheduling changes already in place. Casa Grande’s football team, along with Windsor’s, has switched from the Sonoma County League to the tougher North Bay League, which includes the highly regarded Cardinal Newman along with Rancho Cotate.

Also in the North Bay League are Casa Grande’s three non-league opponents from last season: Ukiah, Maria Carrillo and Montgomery, the team the Gauchos defeated in the playoffs. But while this level of familiarity may ultimately be helpful for the team, one opponent will be noticeably absent from its schedule.

Since 1974, the Egg Bowl between Casa Grande and Petaluma was played to determine city bragging rights. That tradition came to a halt after last season’s annual game. Rough penalties on the field made administrators for both sides agree to end the Egg Bowl for at least the next two seasons.

As a result, Lawson got the first and last laugh against the rival Trojans by going 14-for-21 for 281 yards, three touchdowns and one interception as Casa Grande cruised to a 35-9 win. Though the Egg Bowl is done, Lawson has moved on and told me, “I like the change of leagues. A new league means more respect to earn.”

And he’ll be earning plenty if his sophomore year was any indication of what is to come.

Lawson opened many eyes in his first varsity season, throwing for 2,234 yards, 22 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He completed over 65 percent of his passes and finished with a passer rating of 113. “I don’t have a favorite route or play. I just like the ball being in my hands,” he told me, so it comes as no surprise he also ran for nine touchdowns.

With such a strong resume already to his credit, Lawson has received extended looks from Pac-12 schools such as USC, UCLA, Oregon State, Washington and locally, Cal. He still has two full seasons to showcase his talents and it’s obviously conceivable he could lead the Gauchos to greater postseason success in that time.

Seniors Cole Boggs and Jared Roberts are expected to be his top targets. Both are entering their third seasons of varsity ball, and Boggs was the Gauchos’ second-leading receiver in 2011 with 31 catches, 350 yards and five touchdowns.