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October 1, 2014

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Green Valley wins on and off the field

Gators drop Foothill, 18-7, dedicate victory to injured teammate

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Leila Navidi

Green Valley High School players cheer after the Gators defeated Foothill 18-7 at home on Friday.

Foothill at Green Valley

The Gators took on Foothill High School at home on Friday. Launch slideshow »

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It would have been real easy for Green Valley quarterback Nick Libonati to think about his friend each time he looked down to wipe his hands on the towel attached to his waist.

After all, one couldn’t help but notice the large, blue No. 3 in honor of LaQuan Phillips, the Green Valley player temporarily paralyzed two weeks ago after making a tackle, boldly emblazoned on what was once a bright white cotton towel.

But the Gators' senior signal caller knew that to truly honor his friend he had to play less off emotion and stick to the game plan.

“LaQuan’s always in the back of our minds as all the games are going to him,” Libonati said. “But we didn’t put as much emphasis this week on winning for him as we did on playing together as a team.”

The result was a win-win situation for Green Valley as it recorded an 18-7 victory over Foothill Friday night at GVHS in a Southeast League opener for both schools. The Gators also got to dedicate the game to Phillips, who currently is undergoing rehab at Shriners Hospital for Children in Sacramento, Calif.

“We really wanted to get a win last week for him and for ourselves, but we didn’t play well,” Green Valley coach Matt Gerber said of his 2-2 squad’s 28-10 setback to Arbor View a week ago.

“Obviously we were a lot better tonight. We were about three big plays away from blowing the doors off this one. When we learn to finish, I think we will be a really good team, and I think we’re close to being there.”

Indeed, had the Gators converted a couple of long pass plays (including one throwback pass that looked like it would have gone for a score had the receiver-turned-quarterback not overthrown a receiver down field), Friday’s final tally would have been more lopsided.

Instead, Green Valley settled for two 20-plus yard rushing touchdowns and two field goals from Nolan Kohorst.

Foothill, which fell to 2-2 on the season, put up a fight but had too few points to show for the Falcons’ effort.

“We just hurt ourselves all night offensively. When you get behind and you’re making mistakes at the same time, you're just not going to be successful,” said Foothill coach Marty Redmond, whose team’s lone score came in the final minute when the Falcons recovered a fumble inside the Green Valley 10-yard line and threw a quick touchdown strike.

“We put our defense in a bind over and over again,” Redmond continued. “I thought our defense played extremely well, and our defense played extremely poorly.”

During one second-half stretch, Falcons quarterback Aaron Dupin completed just two of 13 passes. However, many of his tosses were right on the money, but receivers dropped them. In other situations, Dupin barely had time to take the snap before he found a slew of Gators on him in the backfield.

Much of the game was a defensive struggle as the two squads combined for 11 punts, but early on it was Green Valley that got the scoring started.

On just the sixth play of the game, senior tailback Quincy Bagsby rumbled down the right sideline for a 27-yard touchdown.

Kohorst added a 35-yard field goal and Kyle Larimer caught a 22-yard toss behind the line of scrimmage for another score that gave Green Valley a 15-0 halftime advantage.

That just about sealed the scoring Friday as the defenses of both teams tightened in the second half. Green Valley allowed Foothill senior running back Algernon Sewell, who rushed for 220 yards in the Falcons' win over Mojave last week, 73 yards in the first half, but limited the bruiser to just 15 yards in the second half.

Kohorst did add a 27-yard field goal with 3:18 to go for the Gators, and Foothill finally got on the board when Dupin found a leaping Connor Afoa in the end zone with 27 seconds remaining.

While Libonati said it was easier to focus on the on-the-field action this week compared to last, he admitted that Phillips is "always in the back of our minds and front of our hearts."

“Every day in practice, I think about his situation and it really motivates me in the conditioning drills to always try and finish first," Libonati said. “To see him in such high spirits despite his difficult situation has really changed my outlook on a lot of things.”

Andy Samuelson is a sports writer/editor for the Las Vegas Sun. He can be reached at [email protected] or 702-948-7837.

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