Jummel Hidrosollo / Special to the Home News
Saturday, Nov. 15, 2008 | 1:19 a.m.
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Six weeks later, it didn't take nearly that long for host Palo Verde to run away with the rematch, as it defeated Cimarron 35-21 on Friday night in the Sunset Region semifinals.
Palo Verde's trademark double-wing offense proved too much for Cimarron as the Panthers had little trouble moving the ball. Chaz Thomas racked up 178 yards on 26 carries, Tyrone Blake ran for 66 yards on 11 carries and Sidney Hodge ran for 61 yards on 10 carries.
"The offensive line blocked great today — they came off being very physical and we just read the holes and hit them," Thomas said. "We came into this game looking to set the story straight on what happened last time against Cimarron. They're a great team, but this game we really came out looking to show them who the Palo Verde Panthers really are."
The win sets up a rematch of last season's Sunset Regional championship game between Palo Verde and Bishop Gorman, 37-36 victors Friday night against Cheyenne in the semifinals.
Gorman won last year's game on a touchdown pass with 23 seconds remaining and captured the state championship the following week.
"Last year we were 12-1 but it really felt like we were 1-12 after that game," Rost said. "We have a lot of kids coming back off that group and they've done a great job. ."
Blake said Palo Verde didn't want to experience the feeling of ending its season against Gorman again.
"That game bothered us very much — I'm not going to lie to you," Blake said. "But it's a new season and we're looking to go all the way this year. As long as we're here at Palo, in the black hole and we play physical, then I don't think anybody can stop our team."
Cimarron scored first when Kenneth Banks scooped up a fumble and ran it back 26 yards for a touchdown on Palo Verde's first offensive play of the game.
But the Palo Verde marched down the field on its ensuing possession to tie the game four minutes later as quarterback Kelly Zurowski connected with Hodge for a 41-yard touchdown pass.
Palo Verde scored again on its next possession when Blake finished a 56-yard drive with a two-yard touchdown run to give his team a 14-7 halftime advantage.
Palo Verde Cimarron to 51 yards in the opening half, including 20 by running back Stephen Nixon.
"He won the 100 in track last year, so he's pretty fast," Palo Verde linebacker David Castro said. "Having the fastest guy in the state on their team, it's a challenge to contain him, but we managed to do it. It was the linemen, the linebackers, the secondary — everyone."
Palo Verde marched down the field again on the opening series of the third quarter, but this time Cimarron's defense stopped the Panthers on fourth down at the goal line. On the next play, however, Palo Verde's Alex Boncyzk intercepted a pass and returned it 8 yards for a touchdown.
Bonczyk, a two-way standout, then stepped up on the offensive side of the ball on Palo Verde's next possession when he scored on an 18-yard touchdown reception from Zurowski to give the Panthers a 28-7 advantage.
After three quarters of ineffectiveness, Nixon exploded in the fourth quarter for Cimarron. He first scored on a 35-yard run early in the fourth quarter. On Cimarron's next possession, Nixon broke a run for 65 yards that set up another score, this time from 4 yards that made the game 28-21.
But Thomas broke a 48-yard touchdown run with less than three minutes remaining to secure the win.
First-year Cimarron coach Rod Vollan was disappointed his team didn't play better, but was happy overall with his first season at the helm of the program.
"As a coach, you're frustrated when it takes you so long to get something figured out," Vollan said. "For whatever reason, we came in with a deer-in-the-headlights look. But I'm proud of this group. We battled back in the fourth quarter."
Christopher Drexel can be reached at 990-8929 or [email protected].