It was only a little more than three months ago that I introduced myself to you and promised to do my best in giving you some of the inside tips from practices and games.
But it seems like only yesterday it was 110 degrees out and I was looking for some shade and water during two-a-days.
The football season has flown by and we’re left with one game, the big game: Palo Verde vs. McQueen for the Class 4A state title.
It’s the way it should be, though. Two teams that have combined to go 27-0 this year and dashed through the playoffs.
McQueen has won its three playoff games by a combined score of 127-21. Palo has won four postseason games by a 148-63 count.
These are the best two teams in the state, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be a great game. Most of us thought Bishop Gorman vs. Palo Verde would be a great game and yeah, um no.
I’ll save you re-reading the scouting report on Palo Verde. Let’s be honest, the Panthers aren’t exactly an ever-changing team. They run (really, really fast), run, run and once in a while shovel pass.
Ask Gorman or Las Vegas or just about anyone in the Northwest about Palo Verde’s speed. The Panthers were the fastest team in the South this year. I’d take Torin Harris, Chaz Thomas, Tyrone Blake and Sidney Hodge in a relay race just about any day.
Here’s a closer look at McQueen:
Average points scored/allowed per game: 43.5/6.8.
Strengths: The biggest strength is the team’s offensive line, led by senior right guard Karrington Armstrong, a 303-pounder.
McQueen’s line is a running back’s dream and it’s why the Lancers have averaged 333 yards per game on the ground in the playoffs.
You don’t have to be super fast to get through the holes the line blows open.
Tyler York is the team’s top running back. Anthony Stolo and Kyle Van Noy are a dangerous combo through the air. Stolo has thrown 23 touchdown passes.
Kicker Anthony Martinez booms the ball. When he kicks off, Palo Verde should plan on starting from the 20.
Weaknesses: They’re 13-0. How many weaknesses can the Lancers have? There are quite a few players back who played in the loss to Bishop Gorman last year. Whether that works in McQueen’s favor or not is a crapshoot.
Keys to victory: McQueen’s defense has allowed less than seven points a game this year, but this will be the toughest test the Lancers have faced.
Keola Antolin, now at Arizona, torched the Lancers in last year’s title game, and with Palo’s running backs, the same could happen this time.
McQueen has to contain Harris, Thomas and Hodge, especially. And that’s much easier said than done.
Right along with that is turnovers. The more times McQueen gives Palo Verde a short field, the more times an official will raise both of his arms.
There’s nothing to go by in terms of common opponents.
I’m also sick of waiting for a great defensive battle to materialize. Palo Verde-Gorman was supposed to be one and look what happened there.
I’m not sure anyone has had two better playoff games at any time in the state history than Harris has had in the last two.
Against Gorman and Las Vegas, Harris had 219 rushing yards on 15 carries, went 5-for-5 passing, including a touchdown, intercepted three passes and scored seven touchdowns.
He’s the one player I’m not sure McQueen can handle. It’s hard to prepare for him because there’s no one like him.
McQueen has been highly touted all year and for good reason. The Lancers have blown out opponent after opponent.
I just don’t see this game being a blowout. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if it came down to a kick.
Kelly Zurowski’s shovel pass to Harris sets up Garrett Dunlap’s 30-yard field goal with less than a minute to play to win it. Palo Verde 17, McQueen 14.
Last week: 1-0 (overall and with points)
Season: 82-26 (overall), 69-39 (with points)