Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017 | 11:10 p.m.
Ray Brewer and Case Keefer discuss the next set of matchups in the playoffs, and wonder if the upper level can produce some closer games.
The Green Valley football team cruised to a 9-1 record, and made it to the Southeast League semifinal game on the back of its high octane offense.
But Thursday night, the Gators offense that averaged 35.5 points per game was stymied, and the defense came to the rescue.
Green Valley’s defense held Canyon Springs to only 247 yards, and scored the game-winning touchdown in a 14-7 win to advance to the Southeast championship game.
The Gators defense was suffocating from start to finish, but its biggest moment came when defensive back Antoin Kealoha grabbed a Canyon Springs’ pass off a deflection and returned it 52 yards for a touchdown.
The score gave Green Valley a 14-0 lead the Gators would never relinquish.
“We forced a lot of turnovers, a lot of four and scored some points,” Green Valley coach Brian Castro said. “That was the difference in the game right there.”
Green Valley was the first team all season that found a way to corral Canyon Springs’ speedy quarterback DiaMante Burton. The senior completed only 7-of-22 passes and threw two interceptions.
More importantly, he was limited to only 43 yards on the ground.
“(Canyon Springs) has a lot of athletes over there,” Castro said. “The quarterback (Burton) is a special athlete and they put him all over the field and tried to get him the ball. I couldn’t be more proud of how this defense found him and shut him down.”
The Gators’ defensive front was able to collapse on Burton throughout the game, tallying four sacks.
“Coach didn’t want us to pass rush, he just wanted us to stay in our lanes and keep him contained and we did our job,” said defensive end Mitch Jacobs, who had two sacks and a fumble recovery. “All season we’ve been slept on with people saying our defense isn’t very good and we proved we are tonight.”
Canyon Springs’ defense was equally impressive, holding the Gators to only 223 yards of total offense and forcing two fumbles and three turnovers on downs.
The only offensive highlight for Green Valley was running back Noah Hawthorne, who finished with 95 rushing yards.
Next up for the 10-1 Gators is a rematch with Liberty, who handed them their only loss of the season 49-14 on Sept. 28. But Green Valley played close with the Patriots early, trailing only 21-14 after one quarter.
“(Liberty has) been the champions of our league for a long time and for good reason,” Castro said. “They’re a good football program. We are going to have to play our best game of the year, but one thing I know about this crew is they’ll fight all game long.”
It would be the biggest upset of the season in Southern Nevada this season if Green Valley prevents Liberty from reaching another state title game.
“All the critics are probably going to choose against us so we are going to go prove them wrong again,” Jacobs said.