Sunday, Oct. 2, 2011 | 2:05 a.m.
Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Case Keefer and Ray Brewer go across the valley and break down the upcoming week of high school. They give their picks on every game and spend extra time debating Del Sol vs. Liberty and Servite (Calif.) vs. Bishop Gorman.
The Palo Verde High football team won this game thanks to its play on special teams.
The Panthers opened a 14-point lead Saturday less than six minutes into its Northwest League game with host Cheyenne, using a 54-yard punt return for a touchdown from speedy junior Ryan Beaulieu and a blocked punt to set up another score in a convincing 41-8 victory.
“Special teams are big for us,” said Beaulieu, who raced down the sideline virtually untouched for a 7-0 lead at the 10:10 mark of the first quarter. “Coach (Darwin) Rost also says everything is one-third — one-third offense, defense and especially special teams. That was definitely the case tonight.”
The punt team was just getting started. After Cheyenne went three-and-out on its ensuing possession, Palo Verde again grabbed the momentum with a special teams play.
KamBrenn Heatley, who in the second week of the season had a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Arbor View in a seven-point victory, blocked a punt that was recovered by Patrick Tofaeono inside the Cheyenne 10-yard line to set up another score.
Lee Griggs, who rushed for 116 yards on nine carries, capitalized on the block by scoring on a 4-yard plunge with 6:53 left in the quarter for a 14-0 advantage.
“We knew they were a good team. We came out alive and hit them in the mouth first,” Griggs said.
In a battle of undefeated Northwest teams, Palo Verde (6-0, 5-0 Northwest) showed why it is the league’s perennial power. Cheyenne (4-1 overall, 2-1 Northwest) appeared overmatched from the opening whistle.
“They are a very fundamentally sound football team,” Cheyenne coach David Cochran said. “That is one of the staples of their whole organization. I respected that program. They do a good job year in and year out. Their kids are disciplined and focused on what they need to do. You almost have to play a perfect game against those guys to compete.”
Palo Verde would score 41 unanswered points to open the game, including a pair of touchdowns from Jerrol Garcia-Williams. His second touchdown came on a 43-yard pass from Parker Rost to give Palo Verde a 41-0 lead with nine minutes to play in the third quarter.
Cheyenne was able to move the ball late, mostly against the Palo Verde second-string defense in gaining nearly 200 yards. Tyler Spight’s 25-yard touchdown run provided the lone points for Cheyenne.
Palo Verde plays Shadow Ridge next Thursday. Despite not having a win, Shadow Ridge only trailed Arbor View 7-6 Saturday after the first quarter before being blown out, 55-6.
“You have to come ready to play every week, and Shadow has a couple of good kids,” Palo Verde coach Darwin Rost said. “It’s a short week and we’ll have to crank it up.”