Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Friday, Oct. 25, 2013 | 1:53 a.m.
Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer preview the two biggest games of the week, Desert Pines at Moapa Valley and Green Valley at Canyon Springs. Keefer also takes amusement at Brewer's yearning for the old days before spread offenses overtook the football landscape.
Scoring the game-winning points in a high school football contest is something most players would never forget.
Conor Perkins has done it so many times that they’re all going to be hard to remember. The UNLV-bound Green Valley kicker booted his third game-winner of this season alone Friday night at Canyon Springs.
Perkins converted on a 40-yard try at the end of the game to lead the Gators past the Pioneers, 44-43.
“There aren’t too many kickers getting this,” Perkins said with a smile the size of a goalpost stretched across his face. “I’m just glad I’m getting this many opportunities.”
For the second straight year, Perkins erased a late two-point deficit against Canyon Springs to clinch the Northeast Division crown with his leg. The only difference was three yards and 1.3 seconds.
Last year, Perkins drilled his field goal and sent heartbroken Pioneers to their knees in anguish with 3.6 seconds left on the clock from 37 yards out.
“I was thinking of last year a little,” Perkins admitted. “But every kick is different.”
It was evident the game would end this way well before Green Valley entered Perkins’ extended field-goal range. Based on how the whole night had gone, it was evident ever since Canyon Springs scored on its final possession.
Bradley Alexander fired a two-yard touchdown pass to Kyhren Howard, but Green Valley’s Jacob Tomlin blocked Elio Gonzalez’s ensuing extra-point. That gave the Gators the ball back down less than a field goal against a defense that hadn’t stopped them once all night.
Canyon Springs led 14-0 in the opening 2:30 of the game because A.J. Cooper returned a fumble on a kickoff for a touchdown. But the Green Valley offense never turned the ball over and its only mishap came when a low snap derailed a 45-yard field-goal attempt from Perkins just before halftime.
Four minutes was more than enough time to get Perkins in position.
“We had success moving the football all night, but more than that, we practice that every day,” Green Valley coach Brian Castro said. “We practice moving the ball at a fast pace, trying to score as fast as we can. Our guys are comfortable with that.”
The Gators relied on the same approach they used all night with the game on the line. They went to running back Larry Norman, who had a total of 28 carries for 162 yards, on the ground and wide receiver Gio Hernandez, seven catches for 138 yards, through the air.
Orchestrating it all was quarterback Christian Lopez, who had 343 yards and five touchdowns combined between rushing and passing.
“When we need a play, he’s there to make it for us,” Castro said. “We’re fortunate to have him.”
Lopez drove a Pioneers defense that had given up only nine points per game wild from the beginning. He took Green Valley on a 10-play, 75-yard scoring drive on its first possession, capping it off with a five-yard touchdown pass to Markus Varner.
The next time Green Valley had the ball, Lopez showed his scrambling ability with a couple big gains and a touchdown run from one yard out.
Problem was the Gators were just as helpless defending against the Pioneers. Like Green Valley, Canyon Springs didn’t have to punt the entire game.
The Pioneers built their attack around junior running back Zaviontay Stevenson, who responded with 139 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries. Alexander was on his game, too, throwing for 151 yards on 13-for-21 passing including four completions to Jordan Davis.
“We knew we were going to have to make some big plays,” Castro said.
One of the most notable ones came on a third-down play with 3:43 remaining before halftime. Leading 23-13, it looked as if the Canyon Springs defense was going to snag an elusive stop when it stuffed a screen pass.
The Pioneers even pried the ball loose, but it landed right in the hands of Green Valley’s Tyrell Crosby, an Oregon-comitted left tackle. Crosby broke free for a 35-yard touchdown that sent the sideline into a emotional frenzy.
“Tyrell hustled,” Perkins said. “It’s good to see another college athlete out there working hard and making a play.”
Perkins and Crosby tried to temper their teammates’ enthusiasm in order to not get a penalty. The two senior leaders didn’t let loose until the game was over.
And by then, it was Crosby who was mugging Perkins in celebration.
“He’s valuable to us for what he does,” Castro said of Perkins. “He makes it look easy, and it’s not. It’s hard. He puts a lot of work into it.”