Bishop Gorman’s game plan in Friday’s Sunset Region final included trying to stop Palo Verde’s Torin Harris.
The Gaels might have settled for slowing Harris or Chaz Thomas or Sidney Hodge or even Tyrone Blake.
No, no, no and no.
Harris scored four touchdowns, and Palo’s four horsemen of the backfield each collected at least 90 rushing yards as the host Panthers turned a highly anticipated region final rematch into a rout, drubbing Gorman, 50-14.
The Panthers (13-0) will meet Las Vegas (12-1) in a state semifinal on Nov. 29 at Arbor View.
“We just opened up the game in the second half,” said Harris, who scored on an interception return and a 69-yard run in the first half and had two second-half scoring runs. “All I wanted was a win. I didn’t care what the score was.”
Holding a 16-14 lead at halftime, the Panthers turned on the jets, scoring on each of their first five possessions of the second half.
When Hodge rambled 58 yards with 9:42 to go in the game, it gave Palo Verde as many touchdowns in the second half — five — as Gorman had yards on its first five drives of the half.
“It was nothing we said at halftime,” Palo Verde coach Darwin Rost said. “We just came out and played Panther football.”
Harris, who has signed to play football at Southern California, capped the opening drive of the second half with a 14-yard touchdown run.
After a Gorman punt, Harris scampered 8 yards on a fourth-and-1 play for another touchdown and a 30-14 lead.
Gorman fumbled away the snap on its next play from scrimmage, and Palo Verde cashed in with a 6-yard touchdown pass from Kelly Zurow-ski to Blake.
Thomas and Hodge each had a 58-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, with Hodge’s coming three plays after he intercepted a Gorman pass.
“The second half is our half,” Harris said.
The only possession in the second half on which Palo Verde didn’t score was its final one, and that drive ended at the Gorman 1.
“We got beat by a better football team today,” Gorman coach Bob Altshuler said. “We were only down 16-14 at the half, but we came out in the second half and put the ball on the ground. We came out and fumbled the ball.”
The Panthers racked up 424 yards rushing on 44 carries and had incredible balance. Blake had 116 yards, Thomas 113, Hodge 94 and Harris 90.
“We really have some special kids,” Rost said.
Palo’s defense was just as good, forcing four turnovers that led to three TDs and picking up a safety when Gorman’s quarterback was sacked and fumbled through the end zone in the first quarter.
“Defense wins championships,” Rost said. “Gorman came in here really clicking on all cylinders. We played a very good offense, and our defense held them down.”