Del Sol has played in the past two Sunrise Region football championship games. Palo Verde has played in the last six Sunset title games.
Tonight, the teams will meet at Del Sol High School in what could be the season’s top nonleague game.
“It’s going to be a great test to see where we are, playing the No. 1 team and a traditional powerhouse like Palo Verde,” Del Sol coach Preston Goroff said. “It’s early in the season still, but we’ll find out a lot of answers to a lot of questions on Friday.”
One of the first questions is whether the sixth-ranked Dragons (2-0) can slow the top-ranked Panthers’ explosive double-wing offense.
Palo Verde (2-0) has rushed for 625 yards in two weeks and has six players averaging 7.1 yards or more per carry.
“They’re excellent,” Goroff said. “Their skill guys are second to none. They’ve got a really good scheme. We’re going to have to play our top game and play every snap and let it all hang out.”
Chaz Thomas (146 rushing yards, two touchdowns) and Sidney Hodge (145 rushing yards, one TD) have led the ground attack, but Tyrone Blake, Chappell Thomas, Jahari Selmon and Torin Harris have made an impact and give the Panthers a platoon of explosive options.
Hodge and Chappell Thomas both are averaging more than 13 yards per carry.
Harris, who has committed to Southern California as a defensive back, rushed for two scores last week. He also caught a touchdown pass and returned a kickoff for a score.
“It’s nice to get Torin Harris more involved,” Palo Verde coach Darwin Rost said. “There’s a lot of things we can do with Torin. It just gives us a fresher set of legs, because they’re all playing defense.”
Del Sol has been just as explosive offensively. The Dragons have rushed for 710 yards through two weeks and passed for 309 yards.
Though Del Sol lost three all-state linemen from last year’s team, the Dragons continue to be strong up front.
“On the (offensive) line for us it’s more of a mentality,” Goroff said. “We’re trying to develop an attitude and try and instill it in whoever is running that position. It doesn’t matter how big or how strong they are; it’s a mental thing.”
Earnest Hall (271 yards, two TDs) and fullback Jon Kirschbaum (177 yards, two TDs) have been the biggest threats in the backfield, along with 5-foot-5-inch, 150-pound running back Jordan Molina, who has rushed for three touchdowns.
Saei Huihui has stepped in at quarterback and has completed 70.4 percent of his passes in his first year starting at the position. Kirschbaum (eight catches, 137 yards) has been his top target.
“He’s a tall, athletic kid,” Goroff said of Huihui. “He’s got a strong arm. He’s still learning, but we’re keeping it simple for him, and he’s been doing a good job with it.”