Friday, Sept. 21, 2018 | 11:29 p.m.
It’s a wonder how Palo Verde Karsonne Winters even finds the Panthers sideline. The senior is never on it.
Winters plays free safety, punter, kick returner, punt returner, wide receiver, and occasionally quarterback.
And he’s exceptional at all of them.
The 6-foot-3 everything-man helped Palo Verde in all three phases Friday night as they edged out Shadow Ridge, 14-6.
“He’s all over the place and does it all,” Panthers coach Joe Aznarez said. “He’s just a special athlete.”
Palo Verde held a slim 7-6 lead late in the third quarter when Winters subbed in at quarterback for the first time. He lined up in the shotgun, took the snap and bulldozed through the Mustang’s defense for the score.
“It felt amazing,” Winters said. “I saw the sideline come alive when I scored and we were up and ready to go. Whatever i can do to help the team get the win.”
Teams don’t often have their best athlete punting the ball, but it came in handy for the Panthers early Friday night.
Backed up to their own end zone and forced into a fourth and long, Winters lined up to punt with his heels inches away from the end line. The snap sailed high, but Winters sprung into the air, grabbed it with one hand and booted the ball away before the Mustangs’ defenders could get to him.
“To come down with his feet still in bounds and get it off was amazing,” Aznarez said. “He’s got some ballerina in him.”
Winters, and the rest of the Panthers’ defense, kept the Shadow Ridge option attack in check throughout the night. Shadow Ridge managed only 270 yards of total offense and rarely threatened.
“We felt this game was important and it circled all year long,” Aznarez said. “Our kids did a hell of a job on defense. I’m just real proud of their effort and our game plan that we had.”
The win propels the Panthers to 4-1 on the season — their best start since 2013.
“I’m just happy to be 1-0 tonight,” Aznarez said. “Every win is good and this one is sweet because we really wanted it. The kids came to play and it wasn’t pretty but we’ll take it.”
On the second offensive snap of the game junior back Jaylin Henderson took a pitch 64-yards down the right sideline to give Palo Verde a 7-0 lead, and the Panthers’ wouldn’t relinquish it.
“We wanted to get off to a fast start and we hit a big home run early with Jaylin,” Aznarez said. “I thought if we played with the lead we’d be in good shape. That was our plan and luckily it worked out tonight.
Palo Verde is also 2-0 in league play and will take on Cimarron-Memorial next week.
“This was huge for us,” Winters said. “It’s a great start to league-play, and the momentum is going to push us forward and we can have a big season.”