In its sleep, the Las Vegas defense may have recurring nightmares of Palo Verde sophomore Charron Thomas lining up left in a double wing formation and beating them to the right on sweeps.
On a night when the Panthers did not complete a pass, they pounded the Wildcats on the ground in a 34-14 home victory Friday.
Palo Verde rushed for 468 yards on 67 attempts. Thomas led the way with 157 yards on 20 carries and three touchdowns.
Thomas had plenty of help.
Wing backs Jaylin Henderson (86 yards on 11 carries) and Michael Torres (19 carries for 98 yards) shared the load. When the Wildcats tried to defend the outside, fullback Dacen Phister provided body blow after body blow on the interior defensive line, wearing down Las Vegas with 103 yards on nine rushes.
“Our game plan is to run,” said Panthers coach Joe Aznarez. “I was happy with how we controlled the game. It was working tonight, so we didn’t get fancy or try to out-think ourselves.”
Las Vegas got on the board first, touching off a flurry of second-quarter scoring. Cody Summer started the drive with a 44-yard run from his own 5-yard line. He scored five plays later on a 25-yard run, breaking five tackles along the way.
The Panthers answered immediately with a 6-play, 75-yard drive entirely on the ground.
But Las Vegas took a 14-6 lead in the second quarter on the most exciting play of the game. Quarterback Ja’Shawn Scroggins found Darrin Akau across the middle at the 30-yard line. He left a Panther defender grasping at his feet and sprinted untouched to the end zone with a 50-yard reception at the 4:45 mark.
Then the Palo Verde ground game took over. Thomas scored on runs of 16, 11 and 5 yards. Torres scored on runs of 17 and 3 yards. Phister, forced into action after an injury to Nate Kuryliw, broke off runs of 19 and 31 yards in the second half, but said he enjoyed blocking as much as carrying the football.
“It’s tough when the starting fullback goes down,” Phister said. “But it’s fun smacking the defensive end and then hearing (Thomas’) footsteps behind me and knowing I did my job well.”
For Thomas, who had four older brothers also play for Palo Verde, it was satisfying to be back at full strength. “I came out to show what I can do when I’m fully healed… and lead my team to victory.”