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High school football:

Palo Verde football playing for respect and to silence skeptics at Sollenberger Classic

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Steve Marcus

Palo Verde High School’s Brad Solomon practices with the team at the school Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2012. Palo Verde will face Desert Vista High School (Arizona) in the Sollenberger Classic at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Arizona on Aug. 18.

Palo Verde Prepares for Desert Vista

Palo Verde High School's Lee Griggs poses during practice at the school Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2012. Palo Verde will face Desert Vista High School (Arizona) in the Sollenberger Classic at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Arizona on Aug. 18. Launch slideshow »

Palo Verde Coach Darwin Rost

Palo Verde High School Coach Darwin Rost talks about the upcoming 2012 football season.

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GLENDALE, Ariz. — Players on the Palo Verde High football team are more than familiar with the negative comments and criticism about their program.

Ever since the perennial Las Vegas power Panthers were picked in April for Saturday’s Sollenberger Classic, the message hasn’t changed when debating their selection over three-time defending state champion Bishop Gorman: Palo Verde, despite a 59-6 record since 2007, isn’t worthy to represent Nevada on a national stage, the critics say.

Gorman, which is nationally ranked, had played in the game — where a Nevada team takes on an Arizona school — the past two seasons. Until this year, the organizers took the past season’s state champion to represent Nevada.

But come Saturday, it will be Gorman’s Summerlin rivals, Palo Verde, representing the Silver State when the Panthers play defending Arizona state champion Desert Vista High at 7 p.m. at the University of Phoenix Stadium (home to the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals).

Some aren’t giving Palo Verde much of a chance.

“Have you ever seen Palo Verde’s offense? That will be one horrible three hours for television viewers and anyone who chooses to attend this game,” one commenter posted on the Sun’s website.

Another posted, “They (Arizona) are still stinging from the embarrassing butt-kicking that Gorman gave them last year, so they invited a much easier team this year.”

The Palo Verde players have taken inventory of the negative comments and are using them as a rallying cry in their preparation. Palo Verde has just two defeats the past two seasons — both in the playoffs to Gorman — and are widely considered one of Nevada’s unquestioned top programs.

The players plan on proving that claim against Desert Vista in one of the first games of the season nationally.

“Palo Verde is always the underdog,” said Ryan Beaulieu, the Panthers' three-year starting running back and defensive back. “People aren’t expecting much from us. They don’t realize the talent we have this year, and that motivates us.

“We have a really good chance (to beat Desert Vista). We have a really good team this year. Lots of talent.”

And, because of the talent at the skilled positions, that so-called “boring” offense might have a different look to it.

Palo Verde still will primarily operate out of its double-wing attack, which, despite what the critics have said, has been virtually impossible for opponents to stop. Last year, for instance, Palo Verde rushed for 3,119 yards in 12 games.

Senior Lee Griggs

Senior running back and safety Lee Griggs talks about Palo Verde's upcoming season

This year, however, they have installed part of the spread offense with hopes of taking advantage of their team speed. In addition to Beaulieu and Lee Griggs, two members of the Sun’s preseason all-city team and legitimate Division I prospects, the Panthers have several other players coach Darwin Rost feels could have a breakthrough season.

“We are trying to move the ball around the field more,” said Brad Solomon, an anchor of the Palo Verde line. “We are trying to get the ball around to more people and spread it out a little bit.”

The pageantry of the Sollenberger Classic might serve as a perfect setting for Palo Verde to unveil an altered offense. Getting to play in an NFL stadium is a once-in-a-lifetime experience the players won’t soon forget — something that makes this more than an early-season game that serves as a table-setter for the rest of the year.

“We get a little treat this year,” Rost said. “It’s a nice reward for the kids.”

First-game jitters are pretty commonplace for a majority of high school teams each August. Considering the magnitude of the Sollenberger Classic, the venue and the pressure of proving they deserved to be selected, it could potentially be overwhelming for Palo Verde.

“Even though this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, we are trying not to be overwhelmed about it,” Solomon said. “We have to stay focused on the game no matter where we are playing.”

Earlier Saturday, Moapa Valley from Overton will challenge Arizona’s Blue Ridge High in the Sollenberger Classic’s small-school game. Friday, the Sun will have a story on Moapa Valley online.

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21.

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  1. I'm excited about the current state of Nevada athletics. When I was in high school, Nevada football was a joke. Maybe 1 or 2 Nevada kids a year were recruited to play at a recognized college. Now Liberty, Palo Verde, Las Vegas High, Gorman, Canyon Springs, Del Sol, and others regularly put out big time talent. While the arguments that Liberty or Gorman should have taken the spot in the Sollenberger game have some merit based on last year's final standings, Palo Verde is a great program and the kids there deserve a great game like this. Liberty has a great game lined up in California later in the season, and Gorman plays a couple of the top teams in the country this season. I think it's cool that a lot of local talent has the opportunity to go out of state.

    Nevada high school baseball and basketball has also made big strides since I graduated. I think it's awesome.

  2. I'm not a Palo Verde fan, but they have had a very successful program and are deserving of the shot. This game will be a better measurement of Nevada football rather than sending Gorman and their all-star team every year.

  3. Palo has been the underdog 3 times in 3years, each to Gorman, that's it. I stand corrected, Gorman doesn't have all the power, Palo has some too! Good luck Palo, make us proud!

  4. Good luck Palo. I may watch the game if Palo is going to run a more varied offensive scheme. I feel sorry for any player who has to play offense for Palo as those players don't have much of a chance to demonstrate playing in college style offense. I believe this limits scholarship opportunities for their players.

  5. What a joke....Nevada sends over a JV team to compete to represent the State? It's embarrassing. Desert Vista is gonna whoop their heineys! I'm not rooting for Palo....why should I root for a team that doesn't deserve to play in this game?

    People like to claim that Gorman is crooked and cheats.....this game is a classic example of hypocrisy! The same people who make those claims against Gorman setup this bogus matchup. I hope PV gets crushed! I have no love for a rival...any Gorman fan who does is a traitor. Would a USC fan root for UCLA? Would a Florida fan root for Florida State? Would a South Carolina fan root for Clemson? Exactly.....

  6. So I am a traitor because I am rooting for 16-17 year old kids who had nothing to do with the selection of their team playing in this game? That's funny because I can name half the roster at Gorman who have friends they grew up with who suit up for Palo most of whom they'll be cheering for on Saturday to pull off an upset against Desert Vista.

    The selection of Palo was ill advised, unfair and more crooked than Mexican politicians; however nobody who actually suits up and puts on a helmet had any part or choice in that. Anybody who is a grown man would be able to separate the two. I am a bigger Gorman fan than anyone not named Billy Raftery and I bleed orange and blue.

    There's arrogant and fair weather Gorman fans then there's the rest of us. Thank you sir for making that clear.

  7. @tuasdad - Whatever. 2 generations of Gaels in the family and we bleed orange & blue. In our household there's no cheering for PV or any other school in the city, but especially them. Yes, you're a traitor in my eyes. Just like the other examples of college football I gave above. We attended every home/away freshman football game our son played, even though he wasn't a starter and only played a few minutes a game. We then watched every home/away JV game when he was on JV. Now that he's on Varsity, he gets robbed of playing in Arizona but his friends that he last saw in Junior High School gets to go and we're supposed to cheer for them? Yeah right. Last year, we drove out to Arizona for this game to show our support for the Varsity team.

    Yes, I may be arrogant, but I'm not a fair weathered fan.....so check yourself. The 2 are not packaged together. No matter what, I'm not cheering for Palo. I'm a fan of the Gaels and support our Son, not the area high school football program.

    From your posts, I understand that you're a local high school fan....good for you. You can recite the practice and season schedule for all of the other high school programs.....that's great, I'll concede the gold medal of high school football to you sir. I could care less about Liberty, Basic, or any of the also rans. For those of us who don't care about any of the other programs, we support the kids in our program who work hard. As you pointed out, it wasn't their fault they got robbed of playing in this game....at the same time, we're not going to insult our Son by cheering for the kids who don't deserve to play in that game....even if they were playground friends 5 yrs ago.

  8. I agree the selection process for the "Sollenberger Classic" is highly suspect. How the most dominant team the last 5-6 years was not even considered is beyond reason. However, the decision was made and Palo is the Nevada representative. There are 3 Las Vegas schools playing out of state this year, 2 public and 1 private. Even though I'm not an avid fan of any (Liberty, Palo Verde, or Gorman) I realize the significance this means to "NEVADA" high school football. The success of each of these teams will speak volumes to the level of talent "NEVADA" has to offer. Especially for the public schools. We already know what Gorman has to offer. But this could be a win-win situation for all "NEVADA" high school football. Needless to say, there will be a few moments this fall where I swallow my pride and support all of the "NEVADA" football teams playing out-of-state opponents. Even the team wearing orange and blue.

  9. Gang: I'm 100-percent certain that most in Vegas are rooting for Palo Verde -- including the folks at Gorman. It's about representing the Silver State. With that said, I hope everyone is equally supportive of Moapa Valley. They are a dynasty on their level and so proud to be part of this event.

  10. Does anyone know if the game is going to be televised for those of us in Las Vegas to view? It would be a great win for Southern Nevada high school football if Palo can pull it off.

  11. No, online only at www.aia365.com.

  12. Ive been hearing that Palo will also be implementing a spread offense this season with a new qb who is very athletic and can really throw the ball. Is there any truth to this or is this just wishful thinking. Ive always felt that Palo, which year in and year out has always been strong defensively, could be a great high school team if they utilized their pool of talented skill players in a spread offense. Would be great to see them break it out against Desert Vista.

  13. @lvfootballfun - That's a major insult to our Son who works hard to be on the team. Yes, he doesn't get to play much, but that doesn't mean he doesn't work hard. He loves the team environment and is being instilled with great work ethics. To demean him by saying he just wants to wear a jersey and watch on the sidelines is unacceptable. To say you don't like a school or a team is one thing, but to call out a hard working kid on 2nd/3rd string is BS. I'm looking forward to the Gorman/Liberty game this year....it won't even be close.

  14. @tuasdad - I don't remember them teaching us to root for other schools? Your words...

    "More importantly though, the values of compassion, humility and respect that Bishop Gorman teaches or apparent taught, instilled in me the urge to wish Palo well."

    I too learned those values, but in my mind it doesn't mean cheer for an opposing school.

    Today, the home page of the LV Sun has a countdown for the Sollenberger Classic and features PV with a countdown. I don't remember....did they do that for Gorman in past years? Since you follow HS Sports so closely, I'm just curious.

  15. @lvfootballfun - why don't you show up to a Gorman game and introduce yourself? I'd love to say "hello". Don't even talk smack about my kid....

  16. Sinatra771, you are way off on this one. Wishing Palo a win would not make you or any other Gorman person a traitor. Its called respect for other programs.Ucla doesn't root for USC but they respect each other , hell 90% of them know each other.And yes they do root for each other in bowl games. All teams root for their conference in bowl games. You think because Gorman is good that it brings respect to Nevada, it doesn't and it will never give Nevada respect until other teams from Nevada win outside of our state. The problem is you don't respect other programs. You believe you are the only team that works hard.Self entitlement,Gorman and Gorman alone is the only team that deserves anything to you, thats B.S. That is just not the truth. And yes they do recruit very hard. You don't build a program like that without recruiting. I can also prove everything I say. Ask you own coaches. And yes we all know the fix was in to get Palo the game, but to complain so hard when you have two nationally televised games, come on man! Dont be a hatter! You are so happy to beat up on teams you know you can beat, but when someone suggest you go and get in a league were you would fit , you cry foul, no we don't want to. If you are as bad as you say, go get in one of those California leagues with 5A teams , then come talk to me. Your admin doesn't want to and neither does your coach.
    I hope you have more respect for others than you show, I will never say bad things about you because you are a Gorman person, but to look down at everyone else is wrong.