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Backup Connor Paravia sparks Faith Lutheran to comeback win

Faith Lutheran senior running back Saundre Spiller has fond memories of playing alongside then-quarterback Connor Paravia in junior high.

But Spiller didn’t expect to share the backfield with Paravia this season.

And he certainly didn’t expect his longtime friend to lead an electrifying comeback against a Northwest League division rival.

“Back to the old days,” Spiller said. “We already knew what was happening. Knew what we had to do. We just clicked, instantly.”

Paravia stepped in for injured starting quarterback Sagan Gronauer and guided Faith Lutheran to a 20-17 come-from-behind victory over Palo Verde on Saturday afternoon, scoring all 20 points in the fourth quarter.

Crusaders coach Vernon Fox singled out Paravia in his post-game speech and congratulated him on navigating through a difficult situation.

Spiller knelt next to the beefy linebacker-turned-quarterback, and grinned as the two celebrated their first win of the season.

“Seventh and eighth grade, (Paravia) was quarterback and I was the running back,” said Spiller, who finished with 11 carries for 73 yards. “The way he stepped in today, I was real proud of him.”

Paravia was just the spark the Crusaders (1-3, 1-1 Northwest League) needed to beat the Panthers.

Groanuer was woefully inaccurate in the first half and fumbled three times in the face of Palo Verde’s pass rush. Faith Lutheran couldn’t sustain a drive, allowing the Panthers to play keep-away by milking the clock with their double-wing offense.

Palo Verde senior running back Chamere Thomas wiggled his way to 260 rushing yards on 37 carries and staked the Panthers to a 17-0 lead with two touchdown runs.

But their offense stalled midway through the third quarter, paving the way for Paravia’s heroics after Gronauer exited the game with a left foot injury.

“That’s a tough situation to walk into,” Fox said. “He hadn’t taken a snap all year in a game … We trusted him.”

And rightfully so.

Paravia engineered consecutive scoring drives in the fourth quarter, capping the first with a 1-yard touchdown run and the second with a 30-yard touchdown pass to standout wide receiver Elijah Kothe.

“I kind of got a good flow,” Paravia said. “I was on the sidelines, getting pretty pumped — me and my teammates … Everything just worked out.”

Faith Lutheran’s defense stiffened, and Spiller did the rest, sprinting 52 yards for the go-ahead score with 4:16 left in the fourth quarter.

The Palo Verde (1-3, 0-2) offense sputtered on its final two drives, leaving the Crusaders to celebrate what Fox is hoping to be a season-saving victory.

“Ultimately the goal at the end of the day was to try to get a win,” Fox said. “These guys found a way to do it, and I think the fashion by which it happened really, really is going to build character in us as a team and as a program.”

Contact reporter Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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