Stephen Sylvanie / Special to the Sun
Friday, Sept. 18, 2009 | 12:30 a.m.
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Las Vegas Sun reporters Ray Brewer and Steve Silver break down last week's high school football action and preview the upcoming games. They also discuss the latest recruiting and NIAA realignment news.
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Standing out in a crowded and talent-filled Palo Verde backfield is no easy task.
Both squads entered Thursday's showdown undefeated, but Wright proved to be the difference maker as he rushed 12 times for 70 yards and two touchdowns while also catching three passes for 50 yards and one touchdown.
"This is probably the biggest win we'll have until the playoffs because I know that they have the people to beat us," Wright said. "… Our coach told us it was going to be a war out here tonight and a war it was."
The battle started defensively as neither team's offense mustered any production in the first quarter.
Cimarron picked up the only first down of the opening quarter as each team punted three times before halftime. Palo Verde's first three possessions quickly ended in three-and-outs.
The Spartans seemed poise to end the offensive drought late in the second quarter, though, as senior James Poole rushed six yards for a touchdown. A holding penalty negated that score, which ultimately forced Cimarron to attempt a field goal.
After watching the Spartans miss that 34-yard field goal, the Panthers strung together a nine play, 83-yard scoring drive thanks to a 41-yard touchdown pass from Sean Mears to Wright with only 34 seconds remaining in the half.
"He threw a real nice ball," Wright said. "It was right there. All I had to do was go up and get it. I wanted it more than they did."
Palo Verde's lead, however, did not last too long.
Following a 50-yard punt return by Poole that set up the Spartans deep in Panther territory, Stephen Nixon tied the game on a 13-yard touchdown run with 7:02 remaining in the third quarter.
Despite scoring Cimarron's only touchdown, Nixon rushed just six times for 40 yards while Poole handled the bulk of the ground game with 15 carries for 76 yards.
"There's nothing behind that. I thought both kids played exceptionally well tonight," said Cimarron coach Rod Vollan. "Our kids all played hard, but we didn't play well.
Palo Verde recaptured the lead on the following drive as Wright capped off a 14-play, 60-yard drive with a four-yard touchdown run.
Cimarron blocked the extra point, though, which left Palo clinging to a 13-7 lead.
That missed extra point nearly came back to haunt the Panthers when the Spartans took over possession with 4:27 remaining in the game on their own 20-yard line.
Facing a fourth down and short situation near midfield, Cimarron ran a screen-play to a seemingly wide-open Zach Barbara.
But a late lunge by Palo Verde linebacker Daniel Godkin tipped the pass and sealed the Panthers' victory.
"I'm just glad I got my hand on it," Godkin said. "That changed the game. They were a very good team. I knew it was going to be close. I think we still have a lot of work to do, but we need to go into every game just like this and keep proving to the whole city why we are No. 1."
Wright added his third touchdown of the night with a 19-yard scamper in the final seconds of the contest.
Although Wright scored all of the touchdowns, his backfield partner Tyrone Blake actually led the Panthers in rushing with 95 yards on 20 carries.
"I have to give all the credit to the linemen," Wright said. "If your line ain't blocking, you can't do nothing. That's the bottom line."
Palo Verde, which improved to 4-0, has now allowed just 14 points in four games this season. The Panthers will travel to Shadow Ridge (0-3) next week. Cimarron (2-1) will try to recover from Thursday's loss on the road at Centennial (2-2).
"I kept telling everyone we'd be able to see where we're at after Cimarron, but all I know right now is our kids can step it up and play physical," said Palo Verde coach Darwin Rost. "Cimarron is a very physical team and they will get right back in the hunt. They are a really good ball club."
Steve Silver can be reached at 948-7822 or [email protected].