Panthers cash in early, hold off Spartans

Palo Verde cashed in on a pair of early breaks Friday night.

They proved to be the difference.

The second-ranked Panthers struck for a pair of touchdowns after recovering two fumbles in the opening minute en route to a 28-14 victory over visiting Cimarron-Memorial.

“We just jumped on them in the first quarter,” Palo Verde coach Darwin Rost said. “They put it on the carpet and we jumped on both of them.”

Junior Ryan Beaulieu recovered the opening kickoff at the Cimarron 17, and sophomore quarterback Parker Rost scored on a 7-yard keeper three plays later.

Junior Lee Griggs then recovered a fumble at the Spartans’ 20 on their first play from scrimmage, and followed it up with a 3-yard scoring run of his own three plays later.

“Those early turnovers hurt us,” Cimarron coach John Parcells said. “We gave them a short field and against a good team, you can’t do that.”

Palo Verde (5-0, 4-0 Northwest) took advantage of another mistake to make it 21-0 early in the second quarter.

A bad snap led to a 22-yard punt by Cimarron (3-2, 2-2), giving the Panthers the ball at the Spartans’ 40. Five plays later, Rost hit Griggs for a 25-yard touchdown pass.

“I thought we had the ability to win the game,” Parcells said. “But when you dig yourself a hole, it’s tough to come back.”

No. 9 Cimarron got on the board early in the fourth quarter after Anthony Turner recovered a fumbled punt at the Palo Verde 15, and Demaryae Williams scored on a 1-yard run six plays later.

The Panthers answered as Rost tossed a 4-yard TD pass to junior Andrew Simister.

Williams, the area’s leading rusher, had been held to 26 yards on his first 15 carries. But he broke away for a 55-yard touchdown run to close the scoring with 3:51 left. He finished with 81 yards rushing after gaining 804 yards in his first four games.

“Our kids were focused against him,” Darwin Rost said of Williams. “He’s a good back. We just knew we’d have to gang tackle and our kids did a great job.”

Gerard Martinez put up 137 yards in the air for the Spartans.

“I saw some of the toughness tonight that I know we have,” Parcells said. “Once we believe in that, we’re going to be a very dangerous team.”