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April 18, 2014

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Palo Verde has no trouble getting by Cheyenne

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Stephen R. Sylvanie / Special to the Home News

Panthers offensive coordinator Ted Ortale is ecstatic about his squad’s first-half performance against Cheyenne during Friday’s game at Palo Verde High School.

Panthers Win League Opener

Palo Verde pitched its second shutout in four games beating Cheyenne 25 to 0 Friday night in both schools league opener.

Palo Verde gets another win

Panther running back Tyrone Blake (11) looks to evade the tackle of Cheyenne's Xavier Johnson (21) during Friday's game at Palo Verde High School. Launch slideshow »

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It was a defensive coordinator’s dream come true.

Flying to the ball and tackling with ferociousness, Palo Verde pummeled visiting Cheyenne en route to a 25-0 win Friday in a battle of two teams expected to finish atop the Northwest Division. The defense came up with two interceptions, made Cheyenne turn the ball over on downs three times and forced seven Cheyenne fumbles, four of which were recovered by Palo Verde.

“I didn’t think Cheyenne’s backs were running loose with the ball — I just think we got after it and hit them,” Palo Verde coach Darwin Rost said. “They were coughing up balls. Our kids really played aggressive, stayed in their lanes and really went through their tackles. They played very physical.”

In consecutive weeks, Palo Verde has blown out teams that were thought to be the biggest challenges on its schedule. The Panthers topped Del Sol 34-6 Sept. 12.

But after outscoring teams 150-12 in their initial four games, the Panthers insist they won’t get complacent.

“You never know what can happen,” Palo Verde running back Chaz Thomas said. “We just have to play on and take it one game at a time. Coach Rost makes sure we don’t get too overconfident, but we still have the confidence that we think we’re No. 1 in the state.”

Palo Verde cornerback Torin Harris said it was important to realize the Cheyenne game was just the fourth of the season and the Panthers would immediately turn their attention to Centennial, which they travel to face next week.

“We still have the whole season left,” Harris said. “We won’t get overconfident until we win the whole thing.”

Palo Verde forced Cheyenne to turn the ball over on all four of its possessions of the first half.

The first turnover came when cornerback Sidney Hodge recovered a Cheyenne fumble at the Desert Shields 40-yard line. Quarterback Kelly Zurowski made it into the end zone on a 1-yard sneak minutes later to give the Panthers a 6-0 lead.

On the ensuing kickoff, Hodge drilled the Cheyenne returner to force another fumble, which Chappel Thomas recovered on the Cheyenne 18-yard line. Harris finished off the drive with a 9-yard touchdown run to give the Panthers the 12-0 advantage they took into halftime.

“Palo Verde took advantage of our miscues,” Cheyenne coach Charles Anthony said. “Usually a game like this should be 7-7 going into overtime, but we didn’t hold up our end of the bargain. We kept turning the ball over and they took advantage of it. That’s what you’re supposed to do.”

Palo Verde padded its lead midway through the fourth quarter when Thomas took an off-tackle run 24 yards to the end zone. The score was set up by a 37-yard gain from Harris, who gained 70 yards on nine carries.

With 30 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, it was Harris who put an exclamation point on the victory when he intercepted Cheyenne quarterback Kaeo Helekahi’s desperation heave and returned it 62 yards the other way for a touchdown.

“I had to catch it because I haven’t had a pick since sophomore year,” said Harris, who is committed to play at USC. “So I had to get one this year and decided to take it back to the house. It feels great because a lot of teams try to throw away from me but when I get the chance, I will make the play.”

Christopher Drexel can be reached at 990-8929 or [email protected].

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