Palo Verde coach Joe Aznarez didn’t know how his team got into the playoffs immediately after a home victory on Friday. He only knew they were in.
The Panthers’ playoff chances depended on the result of Shadow Ridge’s trip to Legacy, but Aznarez and his team kept their focus on the game in front of them all night.
It was only after the postgame huddle that Aznarez learned his team’s 48-20 victory over Centennial, coupled with Legacy’s 49-14 win, gave Palo Verde the No. 4 seed in the Northwest League.
“It’s a pretty cool feeling for those guys from where we were three weeks ago,” Aznarez said. “I’ve said it all year, if anyone has watched our tapes, they know we’re a lot better than our record.”
Three weeks ago, the Panthers were winless and had lost their first three league games by an average of 19 points. Now Palo Verde (3-6, 3-3 Northwest League) enters the postseason on a three-game winning streak, thanks to a dominant rushing performance against the Bulldogs and Aznarez’s aggressive decision making.
The Panthers ran for 384 behind the running back trio of Jonathan Schofield, Bobby Webster and Terrill Jimerson. The three combined for five rushing scores, with Schofield and Webster each scoring once in the first half to help Palo Verde to a 20-13 lead.
Schofield and Webster also scored a touchdown apiece on the Panthers’ first two possessions in the second half, and Schofield returned a tipped punt 50 yards late in the third quarter to make the score 41-20.
Schofield finished with 146 yards, while Webster had 153 in addition to several punishing blocks from the fullback position.
“He was just lighting them up,” Schofield said of Webster. “He was opening up the holes, moving ends out of the way.”
Webster scored Palo Verde’s first touchdown after Aznarez decided to kick onside after a field goal and the Panthers recovered. Centennial (3-6, 2-4) tried to retaliate with an onside kick of its own to start the second half, but Palo Verde was prepared.
The Bulldogs, who would have been in the playoffs with a win and a Legacy win, received strong performances from quarterback Jamaal Evans and wide receiver Savon Scarver, but couldn’t stop the Panthers’ winning streak.
Evans, a Utah State commit, passed for 225 yards to go over the 2,000-yard mark as a senior and scored three touchdowns total to give him 36 on the year. Scarver had 129 receiving yards to give him 946 for the season.
Now, their careers are done while Palo Verde has at least one more game to play. It took only three weeks for the Panthers to go from winless to playoff-bound.
“We were in pretty rough shape,” Aznarez said. “I’m just proud of them.”