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PREP FOOTBALL:

Palo Verde pounds Las Vegas High

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Sam Morris

Palo Verde’s Tyrone Blake walks off the field in celebration after defeating Las Vegas 42-21 on Saturday.

Updated Saturday, Nov. 29, 2008 | 6:52 p.m.

Panthers on to State

Palo Verde is on to the state title game after beating Las Vegas 42-21 Saturday afternoon.

Palo Verde captures Southern Nevada crown

Palo Verde running back Chaz Thomas (22) carries the ball during the Nevada State semifinals football game against Las Vegas high Saturday. Launch slideshow »
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Palo Verde running back Torin Harris (5) dives for one of his four touchdowns Saturday as the Panthers trounced Las Vegas High 42-21 in the Nevada State semifinals.

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Palo Verde's Torin Harris signals the team's standing in the valley after defeating Las Vegas 42-21 Saturday.

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The Palo Verde football team struck hard and fast in the state semifinals Saturday as the Panthers jumped out to a 21-0 lead over Las Vegas High early in the second quarter.

It was turnovers that would prove to be the key to the game, however, as four Panther interceptions kept the Wildcats offense off the field and led to a 42-21 Palo Verde win.

Seniors Sidney Hodge and Alex Boncyk collected an interception each while senior Torin Harris pulled down two, including one he ran back for a 24-yard touchdown in the first quarter.

"I'm really proud of the staff and what they put together for our defense," Palo Verde coach Darwin Rost said. "All week long they've been trying to think about how to stop a team like Las Vegas. They're a great team, my hat's off to them, but our secondary just played a great game."

In addition to his interception return, Harris had two rushing touchdowns off runs of 69 and 14 yards and also connected with senior running back Chaz Thomas a 10-yard pass for a score.

"I felt good today, like a I had a lot of energy," Harris said. "I think our defense was prepared really well and our offense got going quick. It feels great, as a senior, to be able to come out and have a good game in an important one like this. We're going to state now. This is what we've been wishing for."

The Panthers now head to Reno where they will take on Northern champions McQueen High at Mackay Stadium on Dec. 6.

Las Vegas coach Chris Faircloth said Palo Verde should give McQueen a tough game, especially if Harris is firing on all cylinders again.

"If there was a difference-maker in this entire game it was Torin Harris, on both sides of the ball," Faircloth said. "That kid is on a whole other level than most of our guys will ever see. He is a once in every 10 years kind of kid. The last kid like that to come out of Nevada was Steven Jackson. That's the kind of player he is."

The Panthers also picked up scores on an 80-yard run from Hodge who led the team with 139 rushing yards on 14 carries, and a 45-yard shovel pass to Thomas.

"Coach always tells me to just run the ball hard, keep my legs moving and don't let up, so I didn't," Thomas said. "We were all real aggressive today and that's what helped us come out on top. Our defense played well, our offense played well and now we're going to state. It feels real good."

Rost said the Panthers have used a different look on offense in the last three playoff games to keep opponents on their toes. He now has another week to consider how to approach the McQueen game while he enjoys the opportunity to continue coaching into December.

"Whenever you can coach with Christmas music playing during practice, you know you've had a good season," Rost said.

Jared Harmon can be reached at 990-8922 or [email protected].

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