Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014 | 1:29 a.m.
Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer go all around the valley on this week's podcast, mentioning a couple surprise 2-0 teams along with usual conversation on powers like Bishop Gorman and Liberty. They also dive deep into this weekend's stacked schedule, which includes Las Vegas visiting Palo Verde and a showdown between two of Division 1A's best running backs in Mojave's Ty Flanagan and Sierra Vista's Maleik Broady.
Any football matchup between Palo Verde and Las Vegas High beckons memories of a decade ago when the two crosstown schools were the city’s preeminent powers and regularly clashed late in the playoffs.
The Panthers and the Wildcats took the throwback theme to an extreme Friday night, inducing nostalgia not only because of their history but also with their style of play.
Unlike so many contemporary high school games, the teams didn’t take turns dazzling with their offenses in a shootout at Palo Verde. They engaged in a defensive struggle, trading blows in the form of hard contact at the line of scrimmage.
Trading is a little generous. It was more like the Panthers swung haymakers, and the Wildcats ate them repeatedly.
Palo Verde blasted through Las Vegas 19-0 in the first-ever regular season meeting between the two perennial contenders.
“We came out physical,” said senior linebacker and running back Jaren Campbell. “And we came out to hit.”
Las Vegas learned as much early on with Campbell and other defensive front-seven cronies like Chauntez Thomas, Dylan Turner and Kameron Toomer swarming to the ball to create car crash-sounding collisions with their hard tackling. The aggressiveness turned the Wildcats tentative.
Las Vegas star running back Elias Miller picked up 12 yards and a first-down on the first play of the game. Miller wouldn’t have a better carry the rest of the night, finishing with 36 yards on 13 attempts, and the Wildcats would only move the chains five more times.
Palo Verde held Las Vegas to 86 yards of total offense.
“Our kids were just great defensive-wise,” Palo Verde coach Darwin Rost said. “Offensive-wise, we’ve got some holes but we’ll get them figured out.”
The only time Las Vegas reached Palo Verde’s red zone was when it recovered a muffed punt early in the second quarter. The possession lasted two plays before Campbell broke through the line and recovered a fumble on a poor pitch in the backfield.
Palo Verde was already up 13-0 by then. Senior running back Darrion Finn had scored on a 46-yard rush minutes before. Campbell found the end zone on the Panthers’ first drive with a five-yard run.
“Last year, he was the guy on defense but now he’s the guy on both sides of the ball,” Rost said of Campbell. “He’s gotten himself into shape to where he can be out there at all times, and he’s got to be out there at all times for us. He’s a player.”
Campbell finished with 78 yards on 15 carries. It looked like he would have to take on an increased workload when Finn, who had picked up 68 yards on just five carries, went down in the second quarter.
But senior Ty Fuller stepped up in Finn’s absence to gain 158 combined rushing and receiving yards. Fuller broke through for an 8-yard touchdown with 9:46 left in the game for Palo Verde’s final score.
“He showed everyone what he was worth,” Campbell said. “He did his thing.”
Las Vegas responded with its best drive of the night. After suffering through nightlong accuracy issues exacerbated by tight coverage from Palo Verde’s secondary — consisting of Graeson Vereen, Chris Johnson, Isaac Woods and Devion Clayton — Wildcats’ quarterback Trevor Swenson completed three straight passes.
Swenson, who went 12-for-32 for 85 yards in total, took his team 50 yards in just more than two minutes to the Panthers’ 24-yard line. Two plays later, Campbell blitzed and pelted Swenson with Palo Verde’s third sack of the night.
Las Vegas couldn’t convert on third- or fourth-and-long.
“Defense shut them down,” Campbell said. “We did what we had to do: Played together as a family, came together to get this victory and keep the donut.”
From shutout to shutting out, the monumental progress the Panthers have made in less than a month isn’t lost on Rost. It’s as dramatic as any team he’s coached as Palo Verde opened the season with an embarrassing 16-0 loss to Centennial before upsetting a pair of top-five teams in Green Valley and Las Vegas.
Rost said it was all about taking the program back to its roots by emphasizing hard-nosed play.
“Coach Rost told us that the more physical team would get the W,” Campbell said. “So we came out and were the more physical team.”