Friday, Nov. 11, 2011 | 12:39 a.m.
Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer disagree on the Liberty vs. Las Vegas matchup for the same reasons as last year. They come to a consensus on the rest of the games, but also break down the matchups.
With less than two minutes remaining and Palo Verde High trailing visiting Centennial 20-16 in the Sunset Regional semifinals, the Panthers faced a fourth-and-seven from the Centennial 34-yard line with their undefeated season on the line.
“I took off right trying to get the linebacker to go with me and once he did, I just turned and threw it to Witham and he made a great run to get the first down,” Rost said.
Three plays later, Panther junior running back Ryan Beaulieu used his speed to get to the corner of the end zone on a 7-yard touchdown run, giving the Panthers the 23-20 victory.
The Panthers defense forced Centennial to turn the ball over on downs on the ensuing possession in advancing to next week’s Sunset championship game to face rival Bishop Gorman.
“They’re real good,” Palo Verde coach Darwin Rost said of Gorman. “We’ve seen them ’07,’08, ’09, 2010, and now 2011. Five years in a row we’ve seen them. (Gorman coach) Tony Sanchez does a great job and they’re nationally ranked. We’ll have our kids prepared and give it a shot.”
The Panthers jumped out to a 16-0 first half lead off a safety and two touchdowns from junior tailback Lee Griggs.
On the Panthers first drive of the second quarter, Griggs caught a 50-yard reception from Rost to move the ball to the Centennial 2-yard line and he scored on the following play.
On the Panthers ensuing drive, Rost connected with Griggs on a 47-yard touchdown pass to extend the lead to 16-0 with 6:32 left in the second quarter.
Griggs finished with five receptions for 134 yards and a touchdown.
“Griggs is a great player,” Parker Rost said. “He’s one of the best athletes in the state. He can do anything. You just have to get him the ball and he’ll make moves and break tackles.”
Just when the game was looking like it might turn into a lopsided affair like the Sept. 16 matchup in which the host Panthers defeated the Bulldogs 49-12, Centennial responded with an 80-yard touchdown drive capped off by a Coby Newton 1-yard touchdown run to trim the deficit to 16-6.
With the Bulldogs trailing by 10 points at halftime, Centennial play inspired football in the third quarter, outscoring the Panthers 14-0 and holding Palo Verde to one first down.
Centennial cut into its deficit midway through the third quarter when junior quarterback Austin Turley hit senior receiver Najeem Popal for a touchdown on an 11-yard fade route to cut the score to 16-13.
After Centennial’s defense forced a three-and-out, running back Jacobi Owens busted free for a 65-yard touchdown run off left tackle to cap 20 unanswered points for the Bulldogs.
Centennial intercepted a Rost pass with just over four minutes remaining, but Palo Verde’s defense forced a three-and-out on the ensuing Bulldogs possession to give Rost a chance to redeem himself.
Rost took advantage of the second opportunity as he threw for 59 of his 170 yards on the game-winning drive, including a 30-yard shovel pass to Griggs to get the drive started.
The loss snapped a seven-game winning streak for the Bulldogs, but even in defeat Centennial showed it can play with one of the elite teams in the state.
“I’m so proud of my kids tonight,” Centennial coach Leon Evans said. “They played their butts off and they had an opportunity to win that thing tonight… It kind of puts us over the hump that we can compete with the elite teams in town. We want to be one of those elite programs in town and to be one you have to compete with these guys, and I think we did that tonight.”