Stephen R. Sylvanie / Special to the Sun
Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013 | 1 a.m.
A week after Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer could barely find a single game to disagree on, they line up on opposite sides all over the place. With all teams now in league play, they go through all the matchups and differ on how several will play out. They also look back on last week's game between Bishop Gorman and Booker T. Washington.
The Green Valley High football team led just once Friday against visiting Las Vegas after the first quarter — when the clock read all zeroes.
Somehow the Gators, despite trailing by double digits late in the second quarter and being literally a yard — and a second — away from losing, pulled out the miraculous victory.
They followed a similar script to past comebacks.
Behind the accurate leg of kicker Conor Perkins, and some nifty clock management, and maybe a little good fortune, the Gators prevailed 39-38 on a 37-yard field goal from the UNLV commit Perkins with no time left. His kick sailed directly through the uprights, sending his Green Valley teammates wildly onto the field in celebration.
Oh yes, it’s happened twice before.
Perkins made a game-winning field goal last year in the eventual Northeast League championship game against Canyon Springs, when Green Valley trailed late and appeared headed for sure defeat.
Then, earlier this year against Palo Verde, Perkins made a game-winning extra point in overtime for a one-point win against Palo Verde in another game Green Valley arguably should have lost.
Whether it’s the experience of being in close games, the Gators’ powerful offense which accounted for more than 500 yards against Las Vegas, or the grit and determination of players, Green Valley has a knack for winning close games.
“It’s just a great testament to our kids and their will to win,” Green Valley coach Brian Castro said. “They fight their butts off and believe they can score and stop people when they have to.”
The end of the game was an instant classic. Let’s start with when Green Valley trailed 38-24 midway through the fourth quarter and the game seemingly out of reach.
Green Valley’s Christian Lopez, who passed for five touchdowns and more than 400 yards on 47 attempts, connected with Markus Varner for a 26-yard scoring strike with 5:45 to play. But Perkins missed the extra point and Las Vegas led 38-30.
While Las Vegas controlled its own destiny, the momentum was slowly shifting.
Green Valley quickly got the ball back and scored on a Lopez-to-Perkins 17-yard strike. The Gators missed the 2-point conversion, however, and trailed 38-36.
Not to worry — this is where it gets fun.
The Gators recovered the onside kick, and with the all-city pick Perkins more than capable of draining a game winner, needed just a few yards to get into his range.
But Las Vegas held strong, forcing Las Vegas to turn the ball over on downs when Lopez was stopped short trying to rush for a first down on a fourth-down play and about a minute remaining.
Las Vegas needed just one first down to win the game. But they got just four yards on three plays, and after Green Valley stopped the clock with a pair of timeouts, Las Vegas was forced to punt with about 20 seconds remaining.
Punter Andrew Moreland, however, didn’t have time to get the punt off and was tackled one yard shy while rushing for a first down. Green Valley received the ball at the Las Vegas 33 with 11 seconds left. .
“We just always believed,” Lopez said. “We bounced back because we are a resilient team. Coach always preached to never give up.”
Lopez connected with Varner on a 13-yard pass to get into field goal range, then rushed quickly to the line to spike the ball and stop the clock. The buzzer initially sounded to end the game with no time left and the Las Vegas players stormed the field in celebration.
But officials put a second back on the clock, allowing for one more play — Perkins’ game-winner.
“They are all pretty nerve-wracking. But if you stick to the plan, you won’t be that nervous,” Perkins said of his past game-winning kicks.
On the other side of the field, the Las Vegas players were shocked and disappointed. They dominated the game for most of the initial three quarters and still came up short — by one second, or yard.
“Our kids played their tails off. They played hard,” Las Vegas High coach James Thurman said.
Despite both teams putting up video-game type of offensive numbers, the game was a defensive battle early. Las Vegas led 17-3 late in the first, but Lopez connected with Gio Hernandez for a 40-yard touchdown on the last play on the first half.
That started the back-and-forth scoring the remainder of the game.
“They are extremely well coached. I have a lot of respect for coach Thurman and those guys over there,” Castro said of Las Vegas. “They have got athletes that can make you miss and make things tough on you for sure.”
But Green Valley closed with the final 15 points in one of the best games of recent memory. It mirrors the crazy finish last year against Canyon Springs and last month against Palo Verde, which gives Green Valley more confidence the remainder of the season.
The win puts Green Valley (4-2, 2-0 Northeast) in a first-place tie in the Northeast, which is one of the state’s toughest leagues. Las Vegas (4-3, 1-1), which was led by Moreland’s three total touchdowns, will live to see better days.
“Our kids have a lot of fight in them,” Thurman said.