Ralph Freso / Special to the Sun
Sunday, Aug. 19, 2012 | 2:05 a.m.
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Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer are back with a comprehensive — or some would say long-winded — look at high school football. They go division-by-division and team-by-team in this exhaustive 2012 debut. So settle in on the couch with a Snuggie or plan to make a round-trip drive from Boulder City to Shadow Ridge in order to listen to this one.
GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Palo Verde High football team stood in silence Saturday in the north end zone at the University of Phoenix Stadium, watching their opponents celebrate at midfield.
Desert Vista High of Arizona was presented the trophy for winning the annual Sollenberger Classic, jumping up and down to rejoice the come-from-behind victory.
At the end of the first half, you see, the Panthers seemed destined to be the ones celebrating.
But they couldn’t hold a 3-point halftime lead, only gaining 44 yards in the second half and running out of gas late in the 20-10 defeat.
“I think we got a little tired. We have a lot of kids going both ways,” Palo Verde coach Darwin Rost said. “We didn’t catch a lot of breaks in the second half, either.”
Palo Verde forced Desert Vista into four first-half turnovers in keeping the game in their favor, but couldn’t continue the momentum in the third quarter.
Desert Vista fumbled seven times, including on five straight possessions, but Palo Verde didn’t recover. Instead, Desert Vista posted 113 yards in the third quarter and scored a pair of touchdown to open a double-digit lead.
Palo Verde struggled with its pass coverage defense virtually all night, allowing Desert Vista quarterback Matt Young to complete his first 12 passes for 164 yards. One of those throws was a 47-yard scoring strike on a play-action pass play to Austin Hicks with 10 minutes to play in third quarter for the game winning points.
Palo Verde was its own worst enemy most of the second half. It committed 15 penalties for 119 yards, including one player drawing two unsportsmanlike penalties on the same play for 30 yards. That brought the ball inside the Palo Verde 20 yard line and Desert Vista’s Zach Gonzalez scored on a 1-yard run to extend the lead late in the third.
And, while the Desert Vista offense was moving the ball, Palo Verde had minus 1-yard in the quarter.
Palo Verde nearly trimmed its deficit to three points late in the third quarter when Ryan Beaulieu returned a punt for a touchdown with about four minutes to play. However, the score was reversed for a helmet-to-helmet block.
“That was a really big thing when it came to the penalty on the punt. We needed that,” Beaulieu said. “I was shocked when it came back. But we can’t change what happened. We have to get better from here.”
The first half was a different story.
Palo Verde’s Lee Griggs had the most impressive play of the game when he raced 71-yard for a touchdown in the second quarter. Griggs, who finished with 132 yards on 10 carries, outraced several Desert Vista defenders on the way to the end zone while managing to stay in bounds.
Palo Verde’s other points came on the last play of the first half on a 23-yard field goal from Tom Randall after the Panthers forced a turnover near midfield.
The game — the good and the bad — gives Palo Verde a head start in getting ready for the meat of its schedule. With nonleague games against top-10 local teams Liberty, Centennial and Canyon Springs, Rost and his staff will have a good gauge of what to expect from their players and what improvements need to be made.
“Our schedule is not easy, either,” Rost said. “We have some games right off the bat we have to get ready for. ... (Tonight) you get to check and see how physical you are. I was happy with how hard we hit tonight.”
Added Beaulieu, “The first half we did come out strong. But the second half they came out stronger and we came out a little short.”