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October 20, 2014

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Palo Verde motivated by last year’s early exit

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Sam Morris

Palo Verde High School players Thayer Coon, Doug Stultz and Mitchel Geib

Coach Darwin Rost

Palo Verde High coach Darwin Rost talks about the 2010 high school football season.

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Previewing the new football season

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Las Vegas Sun reporters Case Keefer and Ray Brewer discuss the upcoming high school football season. They will let you know whether or not anyone can dethrone defending state champion Bishop Gorman, release their state title sleepers teams and give a quick breakdown of the area's 30-plus schools.

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Last season marked the end of an era in Southern Nevada high school football in one way.

It was the first time since 2001 Palo Verde failed to play in the Sunset Region championship game. The Panthers ran into eventual state champion Bishop Gorman in the Sunset Regional semifinals and fell 38-28.

Don’t think Palo Verde has forgotten about the defeat.

“Our kids want back in that region championship,” Palo Verde coach Darwin Rost said. “When you play in that game seven years in a row and don’t get back, you’re hungry.”

Luckily for the Panthers, they return another loaded team that should be the odds-on favorite to win the Northwest Division.

Senior running back Brandon Wright is arguably the best player in the state and has received scholarship offers from colleges across the country. Although he was already Palo Verde’s leading rusher last season with 1,140 yards and 12 touchdowns, expect to see even more of Wright this year.

Last year, Wright wasn’t on the field when the Panthers ran Shotgun or Wildcat packages. This year, he may never miss a play.

“It’s our ninth year running the double-wing and we’ve got so many formations with that offense, there’s a lot of things we can do with him,” Rost said. “It’s going to be something like we did two years ago with Torin Harris.”

Harris led Palo Verde to the state championship game and earned a scholarship at Southern California. It’s quite a lot to live up to, but Wright doesn’t lack in confidence.

He will also have plenty of help. Rost said the offensive line, led by senior center Mitch Geib, would be a strength.

“We return almost one whole side of the line,” Rost said. “It’s an experienced group.”

Another player to look out for is senior tight end Thayer Coon, the only returner who started both ways last season.

Coon doubles as a linebacker for the Panthers. The Panthers also return senior defensive end Doug Stultz, junior defensive lineman Dillon Chaisson and junior safety Jerrol Garcia-Williams.

Last season, Gorman was largely motivated by a lopsided loss to Palo Verde in 2008 when the two teams met in the playoffs. Maybe this year will be Palo Verde’s turn for revenge.

“It was an early outing for us,” Rost said. “We’ll have a good shot to get back to that region game.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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