Mona Shield Payne / Special to the Sun
Saturday, Oct. 24, 2009 | 12:51 a.m.
Las Vegas Sun reporters Ray Brewer and Steve Silver remember former Palo Verde coach David Castro while looking ahead to this week's games.
Palo Verde defensive coordinator Dave Castro usually sounded like a broken record on Friday nights during his halftime speech.
Regardless of the score, Castro’s message was always the same — finish strong and play with pride.
That’s exactly what the Panthers did Friday night in their first game since Castro died on Oct. 17, closing with 55 unanswered points in a 76-21 victory against visiting Faith Lutheran.
Castro died of cardiac arrest hours after Palo Verde beat Arbor View last week. He was 54.
Friday night’s game, at least early, wasn’t as lopsided as the final score indicated.
The players were guilty of trying too hard to honor their coach in the first quarter and Faith Lutheran quarterback Joe Portaro returned from a five-week absence to pass for three touchdowns in the initial 12 minutes.
Then, as Castro would have liked, the Panthers closed the game with eight straight touchdowns in breaking the school’s single-game scoring record.
“Nobody can step in and do his job,” said Brian Cox, Palo Verde’s defensive backs coach who shared Castro’s defensive play calling duties with line coach Antone Hazzard. “You don’t replace a Dave Castro. Period.”
The Panthers (8-1) did have a Castro on the sideline Friday night. Dave Castro Jr., coach Castro’s oldest son and a 2009 Palo Verde graduate, returned from Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo., hours after learning his father had died.
The funeral was Wednesday and the burial followed on Thursday. Castro Jr., who anchored Palo Verde’s defense for most of the past three years, helped coach his father’s defense all week.
He clearly resembled his father on the sideline while instructing linebackers in the middle of the game. Like his father, Castro Jr. is short, stocky and full of passion for football.
“I guess this comes natural,” Castro Jr. said.
The school honored Castro with helmet decals bearing his initials, ‘DC.’ The initials were also painted at midfield in big letters, while every player had messages to Castro on their uniform.
It was a touching tribute for a man whose hard-nosed coaching style was popular with his athletes.
“(The tributes) just blow me away,” Castro Jr. said. “It says to me that everyone loved him as much as we did. … One guy came up to me and told me how he respected my dad because he treated everyone like a man.”
Palo Verde coach Darwin Rost, who is usually one of the area’s most animated coaches on the sideline, was clearly exhausted from dealing with the emotions of the week.
The death came as a shock to everyone and it took awhile for players and coaches alike to get back into football-mode.
“We told the kids at halftime that the score was 0-0 and to play football like coach Castro would want you to,” Rost said.
And, defensive lineman Doug Stultz, did just that. He recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown in the third quarter to give the Panthers a 55-21 lead with 6:15 to play.
The touchdown is something Stultz said he would always cherish.
“I can’t put into words how special that was,” Stultz said. “That was for him. Something I know he would have wanted.”
Senior Tyrone Blake, a four-year member of the varsity squad who considered Castro a second father, followed with two touchdowns to close the third quarter. He scored on a 44-yard run and a 57-yard punt return to the build the lead to 69-21.
Ernest Hall's 33-yard run with 1:42 to play broke the scoring record.
“We just had too much emotion in the first quarter with trying to play for coach,” said Blake, who also threw a touchdown and intercepted a pass. “Then, coach Rost told us it was time to settle down and play Panther football.”
Portaro returned for Faith Lutheran after injuring his hand Sept. 11 against Centennial. He passed for 298 yards and three touchdowns in the first half, including scoring strikes of 12 yards to Matt Snodgrass, and 9 and 40 yards to Don Pearson.
“Obviously it was good to get Joe back,” Faith Lutheran coach Jake Kothe said. “I was proud of our kids for fighting hard.”
Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected].