Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013 | 1:30 a.m.
Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer celebrate the start of the Sunrise Region playoffs with an all-encompassing look at the first round of games. Don't worry; they save time for discussion on Palo Verde vs. Arbor View and the Division 1-A quarterfinals
Three simple words pierced through Michael Hughes’ cranium and nestled a permanent place in his memory.
When the now-senior Palo Verde lineman walked off his home field last year after the school’s first-ever loss to Arbor View, he heard one of his opponents yell “not this year.”
“It doesn’t sound like that much but it stayed with me forever, for a whole year,” Hughes recollected. “That was the exact message I wanted to get across to them this year.”
It was also the reason why the heavily recruited Division-1 prospect pushed himself harder than ever before this offseason. Why he dropped his fork in the middle of a meal earlier this week to watch more film when he heard a reporter call Arbor View the better program. And why he wrote “League Champs” across his eye black before Friday night’s game.
Hey, Arbor View — Not this year.
“They’ve built a good little program over here,” Palo Verde coach Darwin Rost said, “and it hurt us last year when we got beat on our field for a league championship.”
An added pain came out of the fact that the Aggies roasted the Panthers on the ground with the same double-wing offense Rost had spent years studying and perfecting. As with any game featuring the throwback attack, Rost knew the rematch would come down to which team ran more efficiently and stopped the other team from doing so.
Well, Hughes and his cronies — particularly Josh Hamilton and Griffin Kemp, who each had multiple tackles for loss — held Arbor View to less than three yards per carry this year. The same group controlled the trenches on the other side of the ball, springing the Palo Verde offense to just less than five yards per carry.
“The plan was just to come out and keep grinding them in the run game,” said senior quarterback Parker Rost.
The Panthers’ hunger was evident from the first play from scrimmage. A big hit pried the ball loose from Arbor View running back Anthony Smith, and Palo Verde junior Graeson Vereen recovered the fumble just outside the red zone.
A minute later, Parker Rost hit Jake Ortale with a 19-yard touchdown pass on a third-down play. It served as a preamble for what was to come the rest of the night.
Although Parker Rost and Calvin Beaulieu finished as co-leading rushers for with 80 yards apiece, it was the latter whom Palo Verde went to in every critical situation.
The three-year starter at quarterback converted numerous third-downs and rushed for both of the Panthers’ other two touchdowns.
“He just really wanted this one bad,” Darwin Rost said of his son and quarterback. “He said, ‘coach, get me the ball, get me the ball. I want it.’ And I did.”
His final waltz to the end zone came on a designed scramble from 22 yards out. It capped off a 13-play, 70-yard drive that deflated Arbor View late in the fourth quarter.
The Aggies were threatening to tie the game just before the possession, driving down to the Panthers’ 26-yard line behind Jacob Speaks’ running and Andrew Cornwell’s passing. But Cornwell let a pass get away from him that Palo Verde’s Dallas White intercepted.
All three turnovers in the game resulted in points for the team with the takeaway. Arbor View’s lone touchdown came in the second quarter when Salah Boyce powered himself in from three yards out.
Smith, ironically enough, had put the Aggies in position by recovering a fumble on an erroneous pitch from Parker Rost at the 14-yard line.
“Eliminate that and it would have been 21-0,” Hughes said. “I think we ran every aspect of that game.”
Hughes led a boisterous celebration after the game that featured the Palo Verde student section rushing Arbor View’s field.
He may have even vocalized some thoughts that motivate Arbor View for next year in what’s quickly becoming one of Las Vegas’ best rivalry games.
“They brought it to us on our field, and we just wanted to get revenge,” Parker Rost said.