Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012 | 12:25 a.m.
Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer talk Liberty's statement victory, Bishop Gorman's error-filled night and Centennial's time to shine against Arbor View. In the middle of the usual discussion, they break into an argument over which player is having the best season so far — D.J. Pumphrey or Niko Kapeli.
When you run a no-huddle passing offense, no game is out of reach.
Both teams fit that bill when Coronado High visited Green Valley High on Friday night, but it was the Gators that best exemplified the never say die mentality of it. Despite trailing 26-11 heading into the fourth quarter, Green Valley (2-1) scored 22 straight to hand the Cougars (2-1) their first loss of the year with a wild 33-26 victory. Green Valley sophomore quarterback Christian Lopez threw for 401 yards on 30-of-46 passing with two total touchdowns.
“The way we run our offense, our kids always think we’re in the game,” Green Valley coach Brian Castro said.
And while it was both offenses — specifically both passing attacks — that starred for most of the night, the Gators were only able to secure the victory with a couple of huge defensive plays.
It started more than midway through the fourth quarter with the Gators trailing by eight. Coronado had broken the game open by outscoring Green Valley 20-0 in the third quarter. Cougars senior quarterback Kevin Lucero connected with Jackson Cofer for all three scores in the quarter, including an 80-yard pitch and catch that at the time looked like a backbreaker.
Fast-forward to the fourth and Coronado started a drive at its own three with about 5 1/2 minutes remaining. The Cougars were backed up because Lopez had tried to tie the game by diving for the end zone from a few yards out and fumbled the ball in the process. That was another play the could have sunk the Gators, yet they persevered.
“It shows the character of our kids,” Castro said. “We’ve played three games now and had an opportunity to quit in every game, but they battled through.”
On third down from his own 1-yard line, Lucero rolled to his left and never saw senior linebacker Sam McAloon sprinting toward him from behind. McAloon knocked the ball away, Green Valley recovered it in the end zone and then made the two-point conversion to tie the game with 4:54 remaining.
McAloon’s celebration was short-lived, though, because on the very next drive — on third down no less — he was called for roughing the passer. Again, it looked like a possible spark for the Cougars’ suddenly stagnant offense, but on the next play Lucero threw the ball right between the numbers of Gators senior linebacker Shai Gomez-Simmons, who returned the interception to the 9-yard line. Two plays later Gomez ran it in to put Green Valley ahead for good.
Neither running game amounted to anything, but the passing numbers were off the charts. Lucero finished with 290 yards and four touchdowns on 15-of-28 passing, while Gomez had multiple receivers with double-digit receptions: Kyler Chavez (10 for 214 yards and one touchdown) and Markus Varner (11 for 146 yards).
“We knew it was going to be a shootout and it was going to come down to who got more stops, honestly,” Castro said. “And thankfully we got one more stop than they did.”