Ryan Beaulieu and Lee Griggs combined for 266 rushing yards and four touchdowns to lead Palo Verde to a 44-20 victory over host Durango on Friday.
The Panthers (6-3, 4-0 Northwest League) relied on conservative offensive play-calling and an unrelenting rushing attack to get the best of Durango.
“Our offense did a really good job today,” Beaulieu said. “Our linemen held their blocks, came down and made holes for me, and I just did what I usually do.”
Coming into the game, Palo Verde had outscored their previous two opponents 103-7. Griggs attributed the success of the rushing attack to stellar offensive line play.
“Our line stepped up big,” Griggs said. “We knew it was going to be a physical game, so we knew we needed to be physical and they stepped up and performed.”
Durango (4-4, 2-2), which won the opening coin toss and elected to receive, saw Palo Verde coach Darwin Rost call for an onside kick that the Panthers recovered.
“Our defensive coaches saw that on tape and the players did a good job executing that,” Rost said.
Durango quarterback Brett Neighbors’ lone completion in the game was a 21-yard pass to Arie McQuaig Jr., a result of a frantic pitch to avoid a sack.
“The defense did an outstanding job all game,” Rost said.
The defense forced Neighbors to make questionable decisions all game long.
In the second quarter, Neighbors fumbled an errant pitch to McQuaig Jr. to elude a would-be tackler, giving Palo Verde the ball on the 5-yard line.
Griggs scored on the ensuing play to put the Panthers ahead 23-12.
“I attribute it to our whole team working hard,” Beaulieu said. “It all starts in practice. I really give it up to both our offense and defense. It’s a team sport, and they really put it together.”
Rost attributed the team’s lack of passing plays to a desire to wear down the Durango defense and preserve the Panthers’ undefeated league record.
“We wanted to make sure we stay undefeated in league going against Arbor View next week,” Rost said.
Beaulieu said the impending colder temperatures is the “perfect football weather” to perform in, and that the team is much improved since their 1-3 start to the season.
“We worked our way up and I really feel like we turned it around and these guys are ready for what’s ahead of them,” Beaulieu said.
Despite the physical load of 40 rushing plays compared to just six passing plays called, the Panthers are ready to head into their showdown with Arbor View.
“You just ice your body and get ready for the next game to earn that ‘W’,” Griggs said.