Palo Verde keeps star backstage, still puts on show against Grizzlies

Palo Verde knows it willl need the services of go-to running back Brandon Wright if it wants to contend for a state title.

Head coach Darwin Rost put Wright in that important role, but the senior had to watch from the sidelines during Thursday night’s playoff opener against Spring Valley.

The Panthers didn’t skip a beat.

Palo Verde rushed for 506 yards, including 375 in a 42-point first half, as the Panthers won their 16th-straight home playoff game in a 56-6 victory over the Grizzlies in the Sunset Regional quarterfinals.

“With the weather, we just felt better that Brandon rest his body for another week,” Rost said of his injured star, who was held out with a sore groin. “After the tough game last week, I was proud of the way we were focused. We executed on offense very well tonight, especially in the first half.”

The Panthers (11-0) scored on all six possessions of the first half, each drive taking less than two minutes. Donald Anderson provided three of those scores — running, passing and receiving a touchdown each.

Austin Whalen got the Panthers on the board with an eight-yard score a little more than three minutes into the game. Following a Spring Valley turnover, Palo Verde made it 14-0 on a nine-yard run by Jonathan Maxwell at the 5:40 mark, and the scoring buffet was on.

Palo Verde scored 28 straight points in the second quarter to cruise to the final margin.

“We have some young, talented players,” said Rost, who used 11 players to carry the ball Thursday. “Its great to open the playoffs with a big win, and get the chance to play plenty of people. I can’t say enough about how well we played defensively.”

Spring Valley (6-5) gained 191 total yards, with only 69 at halftime. The Grizzlies finally scored on Jordan Cox’s six-yard pass to Sean Clancey on the game’s final play.

Palo Verde hosts Centennial, which was a 16-12 winner over Desert Oasis, in the regional semifinals. Wright is expected to be at center stage of that matchup.