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July 28, 2014

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Palo Verde defeats Spartans in OT to keep record perfect

Backup players step it up after USC-bound Torin Harris is ejected

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Stephen R. Sylvanie/Special to the Home News

The Palo Verde sideline erupts after kicker Alex Bonczyk kicks an overtime winning field goal against the Spartans, thus preserving a perfect record.

Palo Verde stays perfect

Spartan running back Zach Barbara (31) looks for a gap in the line during a run against the Panthers at Cimarron-Memorial High School Friday. Launch slideshow »

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Palo Verde coach Darwin Rost plans to use his team's 17-14 overtime win against Cimarron-Memorial as a lesson for his backup players while the Panthers prepare for the final four games of Northwest Division play.

The backups turned out to be as important as the starters, Rost said, with junior cornerbacks Jahari Selmon and Chappell Thomas coming off the bench to help squeak out an overtime win in a game that saw USC-bound cornerback Torin Harris ejected early in the first quarter for fighting.

"I hope all our guys learned they have to always be ready," Rost said.

Cimarron (3-3, 2-1) pulled ahead 14-7 in the third quarter, but the Panthers (6-0, 3-0) came back to tie the game and then won in overtime on a 23-yard Alex Bonczyk field goal.

Bonczyk had a chance to end the game with 8 seconds left in regulation, but he missed a 27-yard field goal. "I wanted another chance. We persevered," he said.

Selmon and Chappell saw extensive playing time after Harris was ejected. Harris, the team's marquee player, will also sit out next Friday's home game against Shadow Ridge.

The personal foul was called away from the play and, Rost said, the other player involved was throwing punches, too. If the referees were going to eject one player, they both should have been tossed out, he said.

The Spartans, meanwhile, head to Mojave next week looking for a win against a team that coach Rod Vollan said has had its ups and downs, but is packed with strong athletes.

"It's going to be a challenge for us," he said.

Rost said Cimarron came into the game brimming with confidence, while the Panthers came out sluggish early in the game.

"Every week is like this," Rost said. "Cimarron had a three-game win streak ... and we didn't click at first."

Palo Verde scored first when senior running back Sidney Hodge scored on a 6-yard run as time expired in the first quarter. The run capped off a 12-play, six-minute, 40-second drive.

The Spartans tied the game 7-7 with 18 seconds left in the first half when junior fullback Zach Barbara scored on a 14-yard run.

"We only had the ball three times in the first half," Rost said. "We scored once, fumbled once and punted the other, because of a delay of game. We shot ourselves with the fumble and the delay."

With 22 seconds left in the third quarter, a Panthers fumble set up the Spartans' second touchdown. Taking over at the Palo Verde 35-yard line, Barbara scored his second touchdown on a 30-yard run. He finished the game with 79 rushing yards.

Both teams went three-and-out on their next possessions, and the Panthers, trailing 14-7, got the ball back with eight minutes left in the game.

Palo Verde marched to the Cimarron 4-yard line and senior running back Chaz Thomas scored to tie the game with 3:05 remaining. He was the game's leading rusher with 104 yards.

"Cimarron is tough. They always play their A-game against us," Thomas said. "We just played hard all five quarters."

After forcing Cimarron to punt on its ensuing possession, the Panthers got the ball back at their own 31 with 35 seconds left. Three plays later, Bonczyk, who kicks and plays tight end, caught a 47-yard pass from senior quarterback Kelly Zurowski that set up the field goal attempt at the end of regulation.

Bonczyk came back to kick the game-winner in the first overtime. "How neat is it that a kid can get a chance to come back and redeem himself like that," Rost said.

Brent Hinckley can be reached at 990-2687 or [email protected].

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