Stephen R. Sylvanie / Special to the Home News
Saturday, Sept. 13, 2008 | 1:15 a.m.
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Palo Verde senior quarterback Kelly Zurowski is often overshadowed by teammates in the Panthers' potent double-wing offense.
Not this game.
Zurowski passed for a pair of touchdowns Friday night and returned an interception for another touchdown from his defensive back position to lead the visiting Panthers past Del Sol, 34-6.
The matchup was supposed to be a state semifinal preview, but it quickly turned into a lopsided affair in favor of the perennial power Panthers. Palo Verde has won six of the last seven Sunset Regional titles and proved in this measuring-stick game to be one of the valley’s top teams yet again.
Zuworski put the game out of reach early in the fourth quarter when he intercepted a Saie HuiHui pass and returned 23 yards for a touchdown and 34-6 Panthers lead.
It capped a performance where he completed five of seven passes for 122 yards and two first-half touchdowns. He only attempted three passes last week in executing the Panthers’ run-first offense.
But, as teammates can attest, that doesn’t mean Zurowski isn’t capable.
“Kelly is the man,” Palo Verde running back Chaz Thomas said. “He puts in the time and knows what he is doing.”
After the teams exchanged touchdowns in the first quarter — Palo Verde led 7-6 because the Panthers’ Alex Bonczyk made his extra point while Del Sol couldn’t convert — Zurowski went to work.
He connected with Torin Harris for a 52-yard scoring strike with two minutes, one second to play in the first quarter for a 13-6 Palo Verde lead. The touchdown came on Palo Verde’s second straight passing attempt — a rarity for a team that doesn’t line up a wide receiver in the double-wing.
Don’t expect Zurowski to complain about the strategy. It’s his senior year and he wants to go out on top.
“I just want to win, that’s all I want,” Zurowski said.
He threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Bonczyk on Palo Verde’s next possession and Harris ran in the two-point conversion for a 21-6 lead.
That was all Palo Verde (3-0) would need. There wasn’t much time for celebration, however, as the Panthers quickly turned their attention to next week’s game — they host Northwest Division foe Cheyenne to open league play. Cheyenne has outscored opponents 158-18 to win its first three games.
“I’m very impressed with Cheyenne,” Palo Verde coach Darwin Rost said. “It will be a good game.”
Against Del Sol, Palo Verde also had scoring runs of 3 yards by Tyrone Blake in the first quarter and 1 yard by Sidney Hodge in the third. Thomas led the Panthers with 133 rushing yards on 12 carries, including a 50-yard run on Palo Verde’s first play.
“Coach told me to come out here and set the tone,” Thomas said.
As for Del Sol, the Dragons plan to go back to the drawing board, especially on offense. They were limited to 164 yards and HuiHui completed five of 10 passes for nine yards with two interceptions.
“We could’ve stayed with them if we played our game,” Del Sol fullback Jon Kirschbaum said. Kirschbaum had Del Sol’s longest play of the night when he broke free for a 59-yard run in the first quarter.
Jordan Molina rushed in from eight yards out on the next play for Del Sol’s only points.
“We gave up the big play too many times and you can’t do that against a team like Palo,” Del Sol coach Preston Goroff said.
Sports Editor Ray Brewer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 990-2662.