Quick-strike offense earns victory for Panthers

Several teams in the Northwest Division have taken plays from Palo Verde’s much-talked about double-wing offense.

However, it’s the top-ranked Panthers the hold the blueprint, and for good reason after Friday’s quick-strike attack against Centennial.

The Panthers ran just 38 snaps, but gained 482 total yards as Palo Verde won its 10th straight league contest, a 56-35 decision at Centennial High School.

With the win, Palo Verde (5-0, 2-0 Northwest) has won 15 of its last 20 Northwest Division games, dating back to 2005.

“It’s all about execution,” said Panther head coach Darin Rost following the win. “The kids have bought into the system, including the weight room and the off-season program. These kids are dedicated to winning, and they work hard each day to be the best.”

Palo Verde’s scoring drives each took less than two minutes, including TDs on five of its first six possessions as the Panthers raced to a 35-7 lead.

The Panthers did trail in the contest, as Centennial’s Brandon Wright scored on a 67-yard run giving the Bulldogs a one-point lead.

That deficit lasted all of 18 seconds, as Chaz Thomas scored on an 80-yard run on Palo Verde’s next offensive play, and the Panthers never looked back.

Several players picked up the slack in absence of Palo Verde’s all-around player Alex Bonczyk. The Panthers learned just Thursday that Bonczyk wasn’t going to play nursing an injury. Bonczky, the Panthers’ kicker and best deep threat in the passing game, was replaced by Grant Bernhardy, who caught two passes for 65 yards and a score. In addition, Sidney Hodge stepped in a kicked the Panther PATs.

“Winning a game without one of our biggest offensive weapons shows what this team is made of,” said Rost. “Several players raised their game, and it’s their effort why we won this game.”

Palo Verde rushed for 386 yards, led by Thomas with 247 on 16 trips. Hodge added 70 on seven carries and Tyrone Blake 63 on seven. Hodge and Blake both scored twice.

“Teams talk about our offense, but now we see more teams using part of the system,” said Rost. “But that’s again a credit to our kids, who believe in our system. It comes down to executing the plays - it’s as simple as that.”

Centennial (2-3, 0-2 Northwest) got a big night from quarterback Chris Henderson, who threw for 203 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another. Henderson threw TD tosses of 10 yards to Steven Wicker, six yards to Matt Holley and 10 yards to Chris Stinson.

Brandon Wright gained 80 yards on eight carries for the Bulldogs and scored once, and caught four passes for 115 yards.

The Bulldogs got a big scare late in the first quarter, when senior lineman Gabe Easler was injured and laid motionless on the field for nearly 15 minutes. Easler was taken off the field and was rushed to a nearby hospital.

However, school officials said Easler had feeling in his arms and legs and was scheduled to be released early this morning.