Offense got the Green Valley football team to the second round of the playoffs. Defense put the Gators in the Division I Sunrise Region final.
The host Gators forced seven turnovers, leading to 30 points, and outlasted Las Vegas 47-34 in a region semifinal on Friday.
Green Valley (9-2) advances to the region title game for the first time and will travel to three-time defending champion Liberty (9-3) on Friday.
“The kids knew what was at stake tonight,” Gators coach Brian Castro said. “They’ve worked hard since summer, so to see the kids get an opportunity is awesome. But we’re not just happy with the opportunity. We’re going to break down film, and we’ll be ready to go.”
Albert Lake ran for 107 yards and two touchdowns to go along with two of the Gators’ six interceptions. But his biggest play came in the fourth quarter with the Wildcats (6-5) threatening to make it a one-score game.
Aaron Zanin-Banks returned a punt 35 yards to the Green Valley 5-yard line, but Wildcats running back Elias Miller fumbled on second-and-goal, and Lake returned it 91 yards to give Green Valley a 44-27 cushion with 8:41 remaining.
“That play gave us a lot of momentum,” Lake said. “We realized the game wasn’t over before that, but we got a lot of confidence off that score.”
Zanin-Banks added a 30-yard touchdown reception from Trevor Swenson less than a minute after Lake’s fumble return to make it 44-34, but the Wildcats couldn’t get any closer.
Conor Perkins, whose 37-yard field goal with no time remaining lifted the Gators to a 39-38 win over Las Vegas during the regular season, booted his second field goal — this one from 30 yards — to give Green Valley a 13-point lead with 4:01 remaining.
Green Valley quarterback Christian Lopez finished 27-for-36 passing for 353 yards and one touchdown. He also had a 1-yard touchdown plunge midway through the second quarter that put the Gators on top 27-7.
Kyler Chavez, who had 12 receptions for 150 yards, also had two interceptions for the Gators. Giovanni Hernandez and David Berg added one each.
“Our defense has been getting better, especially the last couple of weeks,” Castro said. “Turnovers were huge for us tonight. That gave us the ability to get up early on them, which always helps.”
The Gators had three interceptions in the first quarter, two by Chavez, and jumped out to a 20-0 lead in the first quarter.
Andrew Moreland rushed for 117 yards on 11 carries for Las Vegas, but he went down with a leg injury 2:37 before halftime following a 20-yard run down to the Gators’ 15. Miller scored four plays later and the Wildcats trailed 30-14 at halftime.
Miller filled in admirably for Moreland, gaining 91 yards and scoring two first-half touchdowns. The junior added a 63-yard reception in the third quarter that went for naught after Lake’s second interception deep in Gators’ territory.
“We picked a bad night to have a bad night,” Las Vegas coach James Thurman said. “They contributed to that. They’re a good football team.”
Swenson finished with 288 yards passing and three second-half touchdowns to Zanin-Banks (11 receptions, 172 yards).
Zanin-Banks took a short pass over the middle and turned it into a 72-yard touchdown early in the third quarter to cut the Gators’ lead to 30-20. His 8-yard touchdown reception with 10:05 left in the fourth quarter brought Las Vegas to within 37-27.
“Turnovers were big. We knew we had to get them to win,” Lake said. “All the guys were able to make plays. … It’s hard work and dedication that got us here.”
Arbor View 40, Legacy 0 — At Arbor View, senior Devon Turner rushed for 109 yards and two touchdowns on six carries, all in the second half, as the Aggies posted a Division I Sunset Region first-round win over the Longhorns.
The No. 5 Aggies (8-2) outgained Legacy 461-42, as Arbor View held the No. 8 Longhorns (6-4) to 53 yards in the first half and minus-11 in the second half.
Legacy had beaten Arbor View 7-0 during the regular season.
Arbor View senior Jacob Speaks ran for 76 yards on five carries, hauled in a 38-yard touchdown pass and intercepted Legacy’s Devin Williams.
Also contributing for the Aggies were senior Anthony Smith, who ran for 81 yards and a touchdown on eight carries, and junior Herman Gray, who ran 12 times for 60 yards and two touchdowns.
The Aggies advance to the second round, where they will play at Bishop Gorman (10-2), a 56-0 winner over Spring Valley, next Friday night.
— W.G. Ramirez
Palo Verde 42, Cimarron-Memorial 20 — At Palo Verde, the Panthers scored 21 points during a 5:33 span to turn a 14-14 tie into a rout in a first-round playoff game.
The No. 4 Panthers (9-1), the top seed in the Northwest, will host Southwest No. 2 seed Centennial (6-4) next week.
The Spartans shocked the Panthers early when Maurice Bennett took the opening kickoff 74 yards to the Palo Verde 16. One play later, quarterback Derek Morefield connected with Bennett on a 16-yard scoring strike to give Cimarron an early 6-0 lead.
The Panthers answered on their first possession when Calvin Beaulieu scored on a 9-yard run to give the Palo Verde a 7-6 lead. The Panthers extended the lead in the second quarter on a 10-yard run by Jaren Campbell.
A fumbled punt gave the Spartans a first-and-goal at the Panthers’ 4. Three plays later, Michael Barnson scored on a 2-yard run, and he also converted the 2-point conversion to tie the score at 14-14.
The Spartans made a costly decision late in the first half. With a first down on their own 16 and 1:37 on the clock, the Spartans opted to try and score instead of taking a knee and settling for a 14-14 halftime tie. Morefield was sacked on first down, then threw two incomplete passes. After a 25-yard punt, Palo Verde drove 38 yards in the final 37.1 seconds of the half, scoring on a 16-yard pass from Parker Rost to Jake Ortale.
Palo Verde scored on its first two possessions of the second half – a 32-yard by Darrion Finn and 1-yard run by Rost – to put the game out of reach.
Beaulieu finished with 14 carries for 110 yards and two touchdowns for the Panthers. Bennett led the Spartans with two catches for 46 yards and two touchdowns. He also had two kickoff returns for 108 yards.
— Robert Horne
Bishop Gorman 56, Spring Valley 0 — At Gorman, Randall Cunningham scored four touchdowns to lead the four-time defending state champion Gaels over the Grizzlies in Friday’s Division I Sunset Division quarterfinal playoff game.
Cunningham threw touchdown passes of 80 and 11 yards and rushed for scores of 5 and 23 yards for No. 1-ranked Gorman (10-2). He completed three passes for 129 yards and rushed five times for 59 yards. He left the game after the Gaels’ first drive of the second quarter.
Brandon Gahagan, Riley Hoff and Alize Jones each had a touchdown reception for Gorman.
Daniel Stewart ignited the Gaels, returning the opening kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown. After a bad snap on a Spring Valley punt attempt following its first possession, the Gaels took over at the Grizzlies’ 1-yard line. Jonathan Shumaker scored on the next play to make it 14-0 just 2:30 into the game.
Alex Perry returned a fumble on a backward pass 81 yards for a score for the Gaels.
Gorman outgained Spring Valley (3-7) 376-31 in total offense.
— Tim Guesman
Centennial 50, Shadow Ridge 13 — At Centennial, Coll Thomson passed for 120 yards and three TDs and ran for another score as the Bulldogs routed the Mustangs in the Sunset Region quarterfinals.
Thomson completed 6 of 12 passes and had a 2-yard TD run. He had a 48-yard scoring pass to Lantz Worthington with 1:39 to go in the first half and added a 19-yard TD pass to Joseph Ceniseros with 49 seconds to go in the half. He hit Brandna Harley with a 27-yard TD pass with 10:13 to go in the third quarter.
Worthington also had a 32-yard TD run, and Gene Haley had a 74-yard kickoff return for a touchdown for Centennial.
Cody Alfar rushed for 145 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries for Shadow Ridge, which got field goals of 28 and 29 yards from Caio Gadanha.
— Sam Leeper
Pahranagat Valley 62, Coleville 14 — At Alamo, Wade Leavitt rushed for 191 yards and three touchdowns to help the Panthers beat the Wolves in the Division IV state semifinals.
Jordan Cryts added 128 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries for the Panthers, who rushed for 395 yards.
Cryts also caught six passes for 121 yards and two scores.
Tabor Maxwell completed 18 of 26 passes for 289 yards and three touchdowns for the Panthers.
Leavitt and Shawn Wadsworth each had an interception, and Utah Ray recorded two sacks for Pahranagat Valley.
Spring Mountain 38, Wells 35 — At Wells, Joshua Banasiak rushed for three touchdowns, and the Golden Eagles (7-2) came up with a big defensive stand late to knock off the Leopards.
The win moves Spring Mountain into the Division IV state title game.