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McQueen topples Palo Verde for 4A state title

Palo Verde’s quest for a state championship goes through Reno’s McQueen High School at UNR’s Mackay Stadium


Justin M. Bowen

Members of Palo Verde’s team sit on the field in defeat after the game Saturday, Dec. 6, 2008, at the Mackay Stadium in Reno. The Lancers beat the Panthers, 13-12.

Updated Saturday, Dec. 6, 2008 | 3:54 p.m.

State Title Slips Away

After running through its first fourteen opponents, Palo Verde falls short in the 4A state championship, losing to McQueen 13-12 Saturday.

Palo Verde vs. McQueen

The Palo Verde Panthers stretch before the state final game against the McQueen Lancers for the 4A Nevada championship Saturday at the Mackay Stadium in Reno, Nevada. The Lancers beat the Panthers, 13-12. Launch slideshow »

Audio Clip

  • Prep Sports Now 12/6/08

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Get an all access look at Palo Verde as the Panthers prepare for their appearance in the 4A state championship game.

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RENO — After scoring 537 points in 14 games, Palo Verde's entire football season came down to one point.

That single point, a missed extra point by sophomore kicker Garrett Dunlap in the first quarter, was the difference between the Panthers and Reno's McQueen High School Lancers Saturday as Palo Verde fell short of a 4A state championship 13-12 in front of 5,500 fans at UNR's Mackay Stadium.

Trailing 7-0 early in the first quarter, Palo Verde's Torin Harris scrambled 24 yards for what seemed like the game tying score. But Dunlap's missed extra point left the Panthers behind 7-6.

The Panthers unsuccessfully attempted a two-point conversion on their second touchdown, which left Palo Verde clinging to a 12-7 lead late in the third quarter.

"I don't want to make excuses for the kid, but If I had to do it all over again, I probably would have taken him out to UNLV and let him kick some balls out there," said Palo Verde coach Darwin Rost. "I think what happened was is he took his eye off the ball when he kicked. But he is going to be a great kicker for us. He’s a great kid and a great student."

Palo Verde and McQueen spent most of the second half mired in a defensive battle until Tyrone Blake broke a 54-yard touchdown run to put the Panthers on top 12-7.

The Panther faithful in attendance were less than three minutes from celebrating a state title when Rost decided to punt on a fourth-and-one from Palo Verde's own 34-yard line.

"We had to punt the ball there," Rost said. "You think about going for it,but not in a game like this. You have to get field position."

The very next play, McQueen's Anthony Martinez burst through the Panthers' defense for a 59-yard touchdown run. A failed two-point conversion left McQueen on top by one point - all that was needed for the victory.

"Hats off to Ken Dalton and his group, they played a great defensive game today," Rost said.

Fourth quarter:

  • This is it - one quarter to go. Palo Verde is 12 minutes from a state championship, but McQueen is stringing together a solid drive.
  • Facing a fourth and five from the 24-yard line, McQueen opted to not kick a field goal and the Palo Verde defense did not falter. The Panthers now have possession with less than nine minutes to play.
  • Torin Harris went down again, but after a visit by the medical staff he appears to be fine.
  • Palo Verde's offense stalled and McQueen will now start a drive from its own 41-yard line with 5:58 left in the game. But once again the Panthers' defense came up huge as the Lancers have to punt once again.
  • Coach Rost is not taking any chances. With 3:06 on the clock and with his team facing a fourth-and-one from on its own 34-yard line, Rost sent in the punt team, which will give the Lancers one more chance to win the game.
  • McQueen will start what could be a championship clinching drive on its own 41-yard line with 2:58 remaining in the game. The Lancers wasted no time making this one a nail biter. On the very first play, senior Anthony Martinez sprinted 59-yards to pay dirt. The ensuing two-point conversion failed, so McQueen will try to cling to a 13-12 lead with 2:47 left to play.
  • I think it is safe to say this might be the final drive as Palo Verde starts on its own 20-yard line trailing 13-12. Remember, Dunlap missed an extra point in the first quarter, which is the difference in this game right now.
  • Elvis is warming up his car. Kelly Zurowski threw an interception -- Martinez, who just scored the potential game-winning touchdown, picked off the pass. All the Lancers have to do is maintain possession of the ball and this one is in the books.
  • McQueen is the new 4A state champion with a 13-12 victory. Stay tuned for more stories, podcasts, photos and videos.

Third quarter:

  • McQueen sophomore Nick Shepherd opened the second half with a 50-yard kickoff return, but the Lancers were not able to produce many positive yards on offense. Chris Stocker's punt was a beauty though as Palo Verde will start from its own seven-yard line.
  • Anyone who took the under on this game should probably start counting on that cash, because this championship has turned into a true defensive battle.
  • The Panthers dodged another bullet as a crew of Lancer defenders sandwiched Zurowski and caused the ball to come loose, but the ref ruled that Zurowski had thrown the ball while getting hit, so it was an incomplete pass. Two plays later Tyrone Blake unleashed his speed for a 54-yard touchdown run with 1:55 remaining in the third quarter. Sidney Hodge's two-point conversion attempt failed, though. Palo Verde now leads 12-7 heading into the final quarter.

First half statistics:

  • Palo Verde: Rushing - 128 yards on 22 carries; Passing - 4-for-7 for 19 yards with one interception.
  • McQueen: Rushing - 112 yards on 19 carries; Passing - 3-for-6 for 18 yards.
  • Thomas leads the Panthers with 51 rushing yards on nine carries, while Tyler York leads the Lancers with 60 yards on 12 carries. Defensively, David Castro leads Palo Verde with 6.5 tackles and Karrington Armstrong has four tackles for McQueen.

Second quarter:

  • McQueen's Martinez just missed a 43-yard field goal wide left so Palo Verde now has a chance to take the lead on this upcoming drive.
  • Palo Verde coach Darwin Rost's worst nightmare came true as USC-bound Torin Harris injured his ankle after catching a screen pass. Harris tried to limp off, but fell to the turf. After some attention from the medical staff, Harris gingerly walked to the sidelines. It appears that he injured his right ankle.
  • Harris is back in the game and just in time because the Panthers' defense came up huge on that last drive. Palo Verde will start perhaps the final drive of the half from its own 39-yard line with 3:26 left in the first half.
  • I guess even high school football is not immune to interesting referee decisions. Palo Verde lined up to kick a 42-yard field goal with 45 seconds remaining in the half. Dunlap's kick was short, but he took a huge hit while kicking. Initially the refs called a "roughing the kicker" penalty, which would give the Panthers a first down in the red zone. But a few minutes later the refs changed the ruling to "running into the kicker" to set up a fourth and short situation. The Panthers tried a shovel pass to Thomas, but came up short. So after a wild finish to the first half courtesy of the zebras, McQueen maintains a 7-6 lead heading into the locker room.

First quarter:

  • So much for that weird 12:07 kickoff time set by the NIAA. McQueen just kicked off at 12:13 p.m. and Anthony Martinez's boot was a beauty as it landed in the back of the end zone. The Panthers will start on this contest on their own 20-yard line.
  • Palo Verde's first drive was very short lived as Kelly Zurowski threw an interception less than two minutes into the game. The Lancers took over on their own 43-yard line and have put together a nice drive thanks to the hard running by senior Anthony Martinez. McQueen is set up with first and goal on the five-yard line with 8:52 remaining in the first quarter.
  • McQueen just delivered the opening blow as Martinez punched in a one-yard touchdown to hand the Lancers a 7-0 lead with 8:15 left in the quarter.
  • Palo Verde's Torin Harris just did what he does bet, which is find the end zone. Harris broke a 28-yard touchdown scramble with 3:55 remaining in the opening quarter. But Garrett Dunlap's extra point hit the upright, so the Panthers trail 7-6.
  • At the end of the first quarter the score remains 7-6 in favor of McQueen. Martinez leads McQueen with 49 yards on four rushes while Palo Verde's Chaz Thomas has 29 yards on five carries.


  • Alright football fans, the Las Vegas Sun/Home News crew just landed in Reno and it is time for the 4A football state championship between the Palo Verde Panthers (14-0) and Reno's McQueen Lancers (13-0). Kickoff is set for 12:07 p.m. and be sure to keep visiting throughout the day because we have stories, photos, blogs, podcasts and video from this game. Palo Verde coach Darwin Rost is allowing the Sun's video crew all-access to the Panthers' locker room, so you can expect one killer video from the All-In crew.
  • But first, a few quick observations:
  • 1. The turf at Mackay Stadium is like cement. There is no give on this field, which means Palo Verde's speed will have an advantage over McQueen's size.
  • 2. The crowd is absolutely partisan in favor of the Lancers, but that is no surprise. What is is a surprise is that it seems like McQueen coach Ken Dalton dressed every kid in Reno. There must be close to 75 players in uniform warming up for the Lancers right now.
  • 3. The first half will dictate the outcome of this game. Palo Verde must shake their nerves to win. McQueen has played in the state title game the past two years and that experience is invaluable. The most pressing question prior to this game is how will the Panthers perform under this pressure after a long bus ride and a night in a hotel?

Steve Silver can be reached at 948-7822 or [email protected].

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