Friday, Aug. 26, 2011 | 10 p.m.
Palo Verde High senior running back Jonathan Maxwell didn’t start Friday’s season opener against Canyon Springs, because of a twisted ankle suffered in practice.
Maxwell, however, still rushed for 88 yards and two touchdowns on only eight carries to lead the Panthers to a 33-0 victory over the host Pioneers.
“I saw a whole bunch of holes that were wide open, and I just hit them as fast as I could and as hard as I could,” Maxwell said. “The offensive line was doing great tonight.”
The Panthers used their trademark double-wing offense to rush for five touchdowns on the evening.
Maxwell, who started 13 games a year ago, had two touchdowns, and junior running backs Lee Griggs, Ryan Beaulieu and Chaunsi Heatley each scored once.
Palo Verde controlled the clock with its efficient rushing attack and wore down a youthful Pioneers’ defense with its powerful offensive line in the second half.
The Panthers set the tone for the game by receiving the opening kickoff and driving 70 yards on 10 plays, culminating the possession with a 14-yard touchdown run by Griggs to give Palo Verde an early 7-0 advantage.
On the Panthers’ third possession, Beaulieu shook a couple Pioneers defenders and broke free for a 55-yard touchdown run to increase the lead to 14-0.
Early in the third quarter with the score still 14-0, Palo Verde junior fullback Andrew Simister went 55 yards on a 3-and-11 play to set up Maxwell’s first touchdown of the game. Simister led the Panthers in rushing with 104 yards on nine carries.
Maxwell scored a few plays later with a 7-yard touchdown run on 4-and-4 to give the Panthers a 20-0 lead as the point-after attempt bounced off the upright.
The Panthers sealed the game with Maxwell’s second rushing touchdown of the contest with 9:00 left in the fourth quarter.
“It’s a big win for us. We played Palo football and won,” Maxwell said. “They tell me every day that I need to step up my game, and that’s what I did tonight.”
Like his first touchdown run, Maxwell’s 31-yard touchdown rush to clinch the victory came on fourth down.
Heatley capped the scoring for the Panthers with an 11-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter to give Palo Verde a 33-0 lead.
In addition to their solid rushing attack, the Panthers’ defense played stout football all game long.
Palo Verde’s defensive unit was led by senior linebacker Jerrol Garcia-Williams and senior defensive end Joshua Symonette, who recorded multiple sacks.
Palo Verde coach Darwin Rost praised his defenders for playing disciplined and fundamentally sound defense on a hot Las Vegas night.
“I liked how disciplined they were and how physical they played,” Rost said. “That was definitely the key for us with all the speed Canyon has. The kids stayed in their lanes and were disciplined.”
Palo Verde has six days to prepare for a Northwest Division showdown against Arbor View at 8 p.m. on Sept. 1 in a Thursday Night Lights game.
Last November, the Panthers defeated the Aggies 17-0 in a tightly contested battle at Arbor View in which both teams entered the game with 9-0 records.
“Last year we were 9-0 and they were 9-0, and we played them over at their place,” Rost said. “It was knotted until the fourth quarter when we busted a long run and ended up beating them 17-0.”
This year’s matchup will take place at Palo Verde with each team 1-0 as Arbor View handily defeated Liberty 47-26 Friday.