Steve Silver / Photo Illustration
Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2008 | midnight
Prep Sports Now podcast
Playing on Thanksgiving weekend has become as much a tradition for the Palo Verde football team as turkey and stuffing.
The Panthers will compete in the postseason during the holiday weekend for the seventh consecutive year when they face Las Vegas High in the state semifinals on Saturday at Arbor View High School at 1 p.m.
To advance to the state's final four, Palo Verde captured the Sunset Region championship with a 50-14 victory over defending state champion Bishop Gorman before a raucous home crowd Friday. Gorman beat Palo Verde in the regional title game the previous year.
"It's exciting for these kids to beat Gorman," Palo Verde coach Darwin Rost said. "Our kids worked real hard to get back in this region championship game. But I don't think we'll get too overconfident. Now we're 3-0 and (Vegas) is 3-0 and we're playing to advance to the state game."
Las Vegas topped Del Sol 35-28 on a last minute touchdown run by Reggie Bullock.
Bullock has rushed for more than 1,500 yards this season, while quarterback Emir Lopez has thrown for more than 2,500 yards.
"Vegas is a great team," Palo Verde running back and linebacker Chaz Thomas said. "They have an amazing offense with Emir and Reggie, and they have a good defense, too. But we're going to come out and do the same thing we did here (against Gorman)."
Palo Verde's trademark double wing offense was as dynamic as it has been all season against Gorman. The Panthers' top four weapons all rushed for more than 90 yards. Thomas ran for 137 yards on 17 carries, Tyrone Blake ran for 118 yards on 10 carries, Sidney Hodge ran for 94 yards on seven carries and Torrin Harris ran for 95 yards on just five carries.
Thomas and Hodge both ran for touchdowns of more than 50 yards in the second half to put the game out of reach. And Harris, who is committed to play at USC, scored the Panthers' initial four touchdowns on the evening, including a 43-yard interception return on the third play of the game.
"This game gives us a whole lot of momentum," Harris said. " But we're not going to get overconfident at all — I know that for a fact. We like to stay level headed and play one game at a time."
Las Vegas coach Chris Faircloth said his team's top priority will be dealing with Palo Verde's big-play ability.
"Palo Verde plays with a lot of speed," Faircloth. "We will have our work cut out for us trying to slow them down. You can X and O all you want to try and stop them, but the bottom line is you have to have an answer for their speed."
Rost considers Faircloth a good friend and is excited for the opportunity to play Las Vegas High again — Las Vegas beat Palo Verde 6-0 in the 2005 semifinals.
"Vegas always has great crowds and we draw pretty good here," Rost. "It's Thanksgiving weekend so a lot of college guys will be back in town. It will be exciting."
Christopher Drexel can be reached at 990-8929 or [email protected].