Defense drives Palo Verde in shutout of Centennial


Palo Verde’s Chaisson Prescott is a quarterback at heart. But that doesn’t mean he takes any mercy on opposing signal callers.

Prescott had two sacks from his defensive end position as the Panthers dominated that side of the ball, limiting Centennial to three first downs as they earned a 21-0 road win over the Bulldogs on Thursday night.

“I’m a quarterback. I was born a quarterback,” Prescott said. “But I love playing defense to help my team out.”

Second-ranked Palo Verde (4-0, 2-0 Northwest League) held the Bulldogs (2-2, 0-2) to 44 yards of offense.

“The defense just won us that one,” Prescott said. “Offensively we were struggling a little bit in the first half, and the defense carried us through. We were pretty much flawless on defense.”

Centennial entered the game averaging 410.3 yards per contest, but the Bulldogs never got anything going Thursday.

“I really feel good about our defense,” Palo Verde coach Darwin Rost said. “Everybody kind of overlooks our defense, but that’s the heart and soul of our team right there.”

While Palo Verde’s offense was sputtering early, the Panthers were dominating on defense, limiting Centennial to 12 yards of offense in the first half.

Palo Verde’s offense finally caught a break late in the half. The Panthers drove 51 yards on eight plays, capped by Brandon Wright’s 4-yard touchdown run to give them a 7-0 lead with five seconds to go in the half.

“The big turning point in the game was definitely the touchdown right before the half,” Rost said. “It gave us kind of the momentum going into halftime.”

Prescott completed just two passes, but both came on the team’s first scoring drive.

The second was the key play, a 23-yard pass to Thayer Coon that moved the ball to the 4-yard line with 21 seconds to go. Coon was wide open and able to wait for the ball to come down inside the 10.

“That kind of stung a little bit,” Centennial coach Leon Evans said. “Our defense played so hard all night tonight. And to catch a cheap one like that — that ball hangs up in the air forever and we don’t make a play on the ball. And then they punch it in with five seconds left.

“That’s tough, but even when that happens we still have to respond.”

Once it had the lead, Palo Verde was able to grind it out in the second half, rushing for 183 of their 316 yards after the break. The Panthers didn’t attempt a pass in the second half.

“We came out and kind of dominated in the second half a little bit running the ball,” Rost said. “We did eat up some clock in the second half running the ball.”

Wright added a 26-yard TD run with 3:26 to go in the third quarter to make it 14-0, and Jonathan Maxwell scored on a 20-yard run with 7:15 to play to close the scoring.

Wright entered the game with 639 rushing yards, averaging 13.3 yards per carry. Centennial was able to limit his big plays, but he still finished with 185 yards on 27 carries. Wright had just two carries for 20 or more yards.

Rost said he urged his star to take the consistent chunks of yardage instead of always looking for the big play.

“I thought he did that in the second half,” Rost said. “It seemed like in the first half he was dancing a lot in the hole. In the second half he was picking up those 9- and 10-yard gains at a time and just hitting it up in there.”

Centennial, which entered the game averaging 296.3 rushing yards per contest, never got its ground game going.

“We didn’t move the ball offensively tonight and it hurt,” Evans said. “It put our defense on the field way too long.

“They handed it to us up front and we never got in any kind of rhythm tonight.”

The Bulldogs were held to 21 yards on the ground. Two of the team’s three first downs came via penalty.

“They’re really like us,” Rost said. “For them to have success, they’ve got to be able to run the football. Our defense did a good job of stopping them on that.”

When Centennial did attempt to pass, the Panthers were able to consistently pressure quarterback Cody Clark, who completed 2 of 11 passes for 23 yards. Prescott led the attack with his two sacks.

“I feel like I get underestimated (on defense) because I’m a quarterback,” Prescott said. “But we all work hard in the weight room, and that’s really what our defense is fueled off of.”