Legacy made its opening drive look easy Friday night, going 69 yards in just four plays for a touchdown.
Unfortunately for the Longhorns, that scoring march turned out to be their only one against a stingy Palo Verde defense.
The host Panthers shut down the Longhorns after that initial possession and went on to grab a 20-7 win in a key Southwest League battle.
Palo Verde (4-4, 3-0) will travel to No. 1 Bishop Gorman on Thursday with the league crown at stake.
Legacy stunned Palo Verde early on with a flea-flicker on fourth down for its first touchdown. Tanoa Alapati hit Ahmyreon Culpepper on a 34-yard pass to go up 7-0 with 9 minutes, 37 seconds in the first quarter.
But the Longhorns managed just 49 yards the remainder of the game.
“The defense really stepped up to the challenge this week,” Palo Verde coach Joe Aznarez said. “They took the challenge personally, and wanted to send a statement. They bought into what we were trying to do, and it paid off.”
Palo Verde’s mission was simple: contain Legacy running back Naim Geeslin, who had over 1,100 yards coming into Friday’s game.
Geeslin rushed for 122 yards last week against Bishop Gorman, but only had 29 yards on 13 carries against the Panthers.
“We knew stopping their biggest weapon would be a key to the game,” Aznarez said. “The credit certainly starts with the coaching staff who put in a solid gameplan, and then the players for executing.”
Palo Verde was without top runner, junior Thaddeus Wiley, on Friday’s game. But the Panther rushing attack didn’t miss a beat, thanks to the duo of Aaron Chisolm and Christian Bell.
Chisolm answered Legacy’s score with a 1-yard run on Palo Verde’s opening possession, capping an 11-play, 56-yard drive that took almost six minutes.
Less than three minutes later, T.J. Webb returned a punt 61 yards for a Panther score, and Palo Verde led for good at 14-7.
Bell opened the third quarter with a 55-yard run, and his four-yard score gave Palo Verde a 13-point cushion with 8:46 left in the third.
The rest of the night belonged to the Panthers defense, as Legacy fumbled four times and threw an interception in the second half.
Palo Verde outgained Legacy (2-6, 1-2) on the ground, 232-57. Bell had 123 yards on 17 carries for Palo Verde, while Chisolm added 86 yards on 21 tries.
“Running the football is who we are,” Aznarez said. “We always want to be physical, and tonight we ran the ball very well. We were going against a defensive front featuring guys that will play at the next level, and without our home-run hitter, we did a great job.”