Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2009 | 8:38 p.m.
Steve Silver and Ray Brewer analyze the 2009 National Signing Day with a view from the valley.
Although National Signing Day is a time to celebrate high school athletes' accomplishments, Palo Verde football coach Darwin Rost could not help but feel a bit sad as he watched three of his top seniors sign Division I scholarship offers Wednesday.
It was a fitting end to a season that fell just one point short of perfection in the state championship when the Panthers lost to McQueen 13-12 at Mackay Stadium in Reno.
Yet it was not the on-field talent of this trio that Rost regretted losing -- it was the character and attitude of his seniors that he hopes can one day be replaced.
"The second I walked off that field in Reno, I started missing these kids," Rost said. "We had a group of eight seniors who were just phenomenal kids. They led by example and they were all tight friends … Sometimes it's a struggle to go out there and go through the grind, but these kids were fun to coach. I couldn't wait to get out on that field with them."
Although the Panthers were deep on talent this season, Wednesday's featured trio played large roles in Palo Verde's 14-1 season, during which they outscored opponents 549-171.
Harris, a future USC Trojan, electrified Palo Verde's offense and defense. He accounted for nearly 1,000 all-purpose yards while scoring 13 touchdowns. He also recorded 53 tackles and five interceptions.
The recruiting process for Harris was rather painless after he verbally committed to USC in June.
"After I got that first offer, a lot of coaches stopped contacting me, which I think benefited me," Harris said. "I didn't have to stress about people pressuring me to go a certain place."
The recruiting process was not so easy for Nobriga, who pondered attending Hawaii, Utah, and Colorado right until the signing deadline Wednesday. Despite being born and raised in Hawaii until his junior year of high school, Nobriga ultimately chose to head to Boulder, Colo.
Even the 6-foot-1, 211-pound linebacker who terrorized opponents with 185 tackles and four sacks his senior season choked up a bit when talking about his decision.
"I know I made the right choice, but it's going to be tough to say goodbye to Palo Verde," Nobriga said. "We had a great experience here and hopefully somewhere down the road we can play against each other. These guys are friends for life, they are great people."
Staying close to his alma mater was the main reason why Hodge chose UNLV over Weber State and Southern Utah.
The speedy tailback and defensive back used his 4.4-second 40-yard dash speed to rush for 945 yards and 10 touchdowns this season.
The Rebels, along with Rost, are grateful to have Hodge stay in his hometown next year.
"It's impressive what happened in that room today," Rost said about Palo Verde's Signing Day festivities. "When you got kids going to USC, Colorado and especially UNLV. It is an up and coming program. Mike Sanford has done a great job out there. I'm really happy that Sidney chose UNLV. He had other options on the table, but I'm really glad he is going to be a Rebel."
Although Harris, Nobriga and Hodge have inked their commitments, Palo Verde could send one more player to the Division I ranks if Chaz Thomas receives a late offer.
Thomas rushed for more than 3,000 yards and 35 touchdowns in his career at Palo Verde and Rost said that he expects a solid offer for Thomas to come across his table by the end of the month.
Regardless of how many Panthers enter the collegiate level, Rost will never forget the eight seniors who led Palo Verde to a near perfect season.
"Besides being great athletes, these are great kids," Rost said. "Whatever they choose to do they will be great at. They were a pleasure to coach. I think the reason we've been successful is because it was so much fun to go out and coach them everyday."
Steve Silver can be reached at 948-7822 or [email protected].