Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014 | 1:48 a.m.
Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer discuss Canyon Springs' upset victory over Liberty before debating the top 10 rankings in the wake of non-league play ending. Yeah, boy.
Senior running back Brenan Adams stood in front of his Green Valley teammates and pretended to douse them with imaginary liquid.
Sophomore defensive back Nazhi Salih eventually relieved Adams and began miming the act of baking and feeding cupcakes to the rest of the Gators, whom roared and danced throughout the entire eccentric celebration.
“I don’t know,” senior linebacker Nate McAloon laughed. “We just came up with that stuff.”
Green Valley earned the right to improvise for a couple of minutes Friday night on its home field after steadfastly following a rigid game plan to burn Southeast Division rival Coronado 18-7.
The Gators’ coaching staff stressed winning the turnover battle and not allowing third-down conversions to their defense all week. Green Valley had two takeaways to no giveaways, and allowed only six first downs to snap a two-game losing streak to Coronado.
With the previous five meetings between the Henderson foes averaging more than 50 points per game, Green Valley had to prove it could win a different way — with defense.
“I think it is,” Green Valley coach Brian Castro answered when asked if the defense was the best he’s presided over at the school. “(Defensive coordinator Elvin) Dick is doing a great job, and the guys are playing their tails off.”
After neither the Gators nor the Cougars could ignite their offenses on the first four drives of the night, the first points came on defense. A Green Valley punt had backed Coronado to its goal line when a snap went over quarterback John Farella’s head.
Farella had no choice but to take a safety when Green Valley senior defensive lineman David Otuafi rushed back to corner him along the back of the end zone.
A flubbed one-yard punt gave Coronado the ball at Green Valley’s 30-yard line two minutes later. The Cougars drove inside the 10-yard line before Gators senior defensive lineman Logan Hughes notched a big sack on second-and-goal.
On third-and-goal, senior Dakota Prussia — who typically only plays receiver — came up with an interception.
“That was his first game playing defense for us and he made a huge play,” Castro said. “We try not to play a lot of guys both ways, but we always knew he could.”
Senior Albert Lake, one of the few Gators who plays both offense and defense, ensured Green Valley capitalized on Prussia’s big play. A methodical 86-yard, eight-minute drive concluded when Lake scored on a 16-yard rush.
Running with extra determination toward the end zone, Lake weaved out of traffic and through arm tackles.
“Playing with these guys growing up, there’s a lot of trash talking and back and forth,” Lake said. “Losing to them last year made us want to come out and beat them more this year.”
Lake was part of the secondary that held Farella to 5-for-15 passing for 39 yards. Coronado’s run game was even less effective, totaling 31 yards on 23 attempts.
McAloon blew up one run play early in the second half by swiping the ball out of Farella’s hands and returning it to the 10-yard line. Green Valley got points off the turnover when kicker Frank Canales converted a 23-yard field goal to make the score 12-0.
“I’ve been getting fumbles a lot but to actually take one away, I was excited,” McAloon said. “I wanted to score. I thought about it all week and made it my goal to try and score, but I couldn’t.”
All the while, Coronado hung in the game with a heady defensive effort of its own. Green Valley moved the ball, but lacked its typical steam.
Coronado seniors Justin Belknap and Jordan Rude were particularly disruptive pressuring Green Valley quarterback Christian Lopez, who went 18-for-29 for 144 passing yards with 19 rushing yards.
Lopez’s favorite receiver was junior Austin Warhop, who tallied eight catches for 79 yards. Lake edged out more than 4.5 yards per carry with 106 yards on 23 attempts. Adams chipped in 12 carries for 51 yards.
“We knew they were well coached on defense and don’t give up big plays,” Castro said. “But we knew our defense could do a good job too. It just came down to who executed better.”
The Cougars got a boost from junior Spencer Cofer checking in at quarterback as he guided his team to the end zone by completing all three of his passes on his first possession. Junior running back Jordan Patterson ultimately powered in the one-yard score with 2:21 left in the third quarter to cut the deficit to 12-7.
Green Valley answered when Lake rushed in a one-yard touchdown of his own with 4:33 to go in the fourth quarter. Coronado marched down to the Green Valley 25-yard line in less than 30 seconds after the score, but sacks by McAloon and senior Jon Garrison terminated its chances for a miracle comeback.
“They got us a couple times but now that we got them, it feels great,” McAloon said. “We knew it was going to be tough but, at the end of the day, we had faith in our defense.”