Kicker’s second chance first rate; Overtime field goal leads Palo Verde to win

Alex Bonczyk missed his first opportunity to be a hero on Friday night.

But the senior for the Palo Verde football team wasn’t about to let his second chance slip away.

Bonczyk kicked a 22-yard field goal in overtime and the top-ranked Panthers escaped with a 17-14 win over host Cimarron-Memorial in a Northwest League thriller at Veterans Stadium.

Bonczyk made a spectacular 46-yard, over-the-shoulder grab with eight seconds left in regulation to put Palo Verde (6-0, 3-0) at the Spartans’ 10-yard line, but then missed a potential game-winning field goal from 27 yards.

“I was focused the second time,” Bonczyk said. “The first time I tried to hit it too hard.”

Trailing 14-7 in the fourth quarter, Palo Verde punter Liloa Nobriga boomed a 77-yard punt into the end zone to change field position.

Following a three-and-out by the No. 9 Spartans (3-3, 2-1), Palo Verde drove 61 yards and tied the game on a 4-yard run by Chaz Thomas (107 yards) and Bonczyk’s extra point with 3:05 remaining.

In the overtime, Nobriga intercepted a pass on third down for the Panthers to end Cimarron’s possesson. After Palo Verde gained 4 yards on three plays, Bonczyk got his redemption as he calmly knocked through the game-winner.

“We persevered and fought all game and never lost hope,” Bonczyk said. “This shows our character.”

Palo Verde lost three of its five fumbles and saw senior standout Torin Harris ejected with 10:08 to play in the second quarter. The Panthers had just 94 yards of total offense at halftime.

“I’m proud of the kids,” Panthers coach Darwin Rost said. “They never gave up and found a way to win.”

Cimarron took the lead on Zach Barbara’s 30-yard touchdown run with 11:17 to play in the fourth.

The Spartans had one final shot in regulation after Palo Verde tied the game, but a holding penalty wiped out a long run by quarterback Kenneth Banks and stalled the drive.

“We almost had them,” Barbara said. “We did what we had to do, they just played a good game, too.”

Stephen Nixon led the Spartans with 86 yards on 13 carries.

“Absolutely it’s disappointing. We had a good chance to win,” Cimarron coach Rod Vollan said. “There’s no moral victories, but there (are) definitely positives. We played better this week than we did last week. We’ve just got to grow from this.”