Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016 | 12:57 a.m.
Las Vegas Sun sports editors Ray Brewer and Case Keefer discuss Liberty's momentous win over the top-ranked team in Texas, and give an ode to all the other great games high school football has produced so far.
Green Valley’s defense let it down in a shootout loss at Centennial last week.
The unit switched gears and lifted the Gators up in another road game at a cross-town power Friday night. Green Valley smothered Palo Verde 28-17, holding the hosts to barely 200 yards of total offense.
“We had to bounce back from taking a loss and boost the morale of our team,” junior cornerback Israel Robinson said.
Robinson and his defensive teammates kept the Gators beating when they were otherwise lifeless for nearly 28 minutes from early in the first quarter to late in the third quarter. Palo Verde took a 10-7 lead in that span after four of six Green Valley drives ended with a three-and-out.
The other two concluded with an interception and a turnover on downs.
Just when frustration was beginning to endanger the Gators, Robinson made a play that shot up their pulse. A gang tackle led by senior linebacker C.J. Araujo forced the ball out of senior quarterback Jonathan Schofield’s hands, and Robinson sprinted in to dive on the fumble at Palo Verde’s 42-yard line.
“We talked pregame about needing to get some turnovers, needing to get some second chances,” Green Valley coach Brian Castro said. “They’re an offense that likes to drive the football and hold onto it, so we needed to take away some of their chances.”
The Green Valley offense awakened as it ran onto the field after Robinson’s takeaway, and scored 30 seconds later when sophomore running back Julian Hulse bludgeoned his way into the end zone.
The Gators would add scores on their next two drives after defensive stops to pull away from the Panthers.
“When we got that fumble, it pumped us all up,” Robinson said. “It made us feel better, made us more aggressive.”
Green Valley couldn’t have gotten off to a much better start. On its fifth play, it looked like sophomore quarterback Kalyja Waialae overthrew junior receiver Christian Mayberry.
But Mayberry jetted down the field and pulled in the pass with one hand before going 42 yards for a touchdown.
“That play was like every day in practice,” Robinson said. “He has great hands. When he caught that, it got me really hyped.”
The initial jolt didn’t last. Green Valley’s offense stagnated.
Waialae, who finished 18-for-31 for 199 yards, made mostly accurate throws but suffered from a few drops by his receivers and tight coverage from Palo Verde’s secondary led by senior Jamil Patton, who had two graceful pass break-ups.
The Panthers’ offense got moving in the second quarter behind the scrambling ability of Schofield, who was the game’s rushing leader with 59 yards. Schofield broke one rush loose for 25 yards to set up a one-yard touchdown from senior fullback Max Miller-Hooks.
On Palo Verde’s first drive of the second half, Schofield used his throwing ability to connect with senior tight end Tyler Thornton on a 36-yard pass. That led to a 22-yard field goal from Matthew Weidlein.
“They had the one big play that really got them in position to score,” Castro said. “It was a nice job by them to drive it in, but our defense stood its ground and really played well tonight.”
Robinson notched another big play before the end of the game, when he made a tackle on a kickoff to pin Palo Verde inside its own 10-yard line. That set up Green Valley’s final touchdown, senior running back Avery Fleharty’s second rushing score of the night.
Palo Verde’s only other points came in the final minutes when Robert Sharp recovered a blocked punt in the end zone, a place the Panthers’ offense could hardly ever get near against the Gators’ defense.
“I feel like we did pretty good,” Robinson said. “We held them to a lot of three and outs.”