Ray Brewer and Case Keefer recap all the action from rivalry week, and spend extra time looking ahead to a few of the evenly-matched games in week 9.
In a span of seven total plays from scrimmage that took only 2:33 of game time, Palo Verde running back Chamere Thomas found the end zone three times.
The senior scored on an 8-yard run, then following a successful onside kick by the Panthers, he took the next play 40 yards for another score. The Mustangs fumbled the ball back to Palo Verde, and Thomas ran in another 8-yard score, and the Panthers never looked back.
Palo Verde overcame an early 8-0 deficit to demolish Shadow Ridge 55-22 Friday night at home.
“It was the biggest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Thomas said. “It changed the momentum and we were just racking up points over and over and over again. I just kept thinking I have to get to the end zone so we can win this game. We needed this game and the next one to win the playoffs.”
Thomas would score again later, on a 50-yard touchdown pass from Nick Zuppas. He finished the game with 198 total yards and four scores.
“Chamere makes a coach look pretty good,” said Palo Verde coach Joe Aznarez. “He’s so fast. Once he gets on the edge nobody’s going to catch him. He’s got a special kind of speed.”
Shadow Ridge running back Aubrey Nellems was ejected from the game in the first quarter after referees said he was throwing punches during a skirmish after a play. Palo Verde lineman Hassiet Alem was also ejected.
“We break every huddle by saying ‘discipline,’” Aznarez said. “At times tonight we broke our discipline a little bit, but our kids have bought in and they respond well to our coaches.”
Palo Verde capitalized on special teams to build its early lead. The Panthers recovered onside kicks on their first two kickoffs of the game.
“We preach three phases and our kids had a little extra momentum this week because our special teams coordinator (Joe Hallead) was in the hospital just five or six hours ago and he got out so they wanted to make plays for him,” Aznarez said.
The Panthers’ defense also made the most of its opportunities. Palo Verde held Shadow Ridge to only 2-of-8 passing for 10 yards and two interceptions, and also recovered two fumbles.
“It got a little haywire there but we got it under control, and we had a lot of breaks go our way in that first quarter and it helped us get the win,” Aznarez said.
Brenton Lee ran for 112 yards and two touchdowns on only six carries for Palo Verde.
Quarterback Kody Presser led the Mustangs on the ground in Nellem’s absence with 118 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries.
With the win, Palo Verde climbs to 4-4 on the season and 2-3 in Northwest League play. A win over Centennial on Thursday night would put the Panthers back into the postseason.
“We knew we put ourselves in a bit of a hole by not winning those early games, so we knew we had to win the last three games of our Northwest schedule,” Aznarez said. “So far we have two and we have one more to go, but we’ve had this game circled on the schedule.”
Regardless of next week’s outcome, Thomas, Lee and the rest of the senior class walked off the field at Palo Verde for the last time as winners.
“It was amazing,” Thomas said. “I’ve been playing with most of these guys for four years, and other guys on the team for way longer, so I’m proud that we can come on this field on our senior night and win like this.”