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Shadow Ridge wins 3rd straight 5A flag football state title — PHOTOS

Updated February 20, 2024 - 10:46 pm

Shadow Ridge’s flag football team didn’t expect the rain to continue throughout Tuesday’s Class 5A state title game, but coach Matt Nighswonger told the Mustangs to embrace the weather.

They did just that.

Just as nothing could stop the steady drizzle on a chilly night, nothing stopped Shadow Ridge from winning its third straight 5A state title.

The No. 1 seeded Mustangs grabbed an early lead at home and never looked back in a 19-2 victory over No. 3 Palo Verde.

“I really didn’t anticipate (three straight state titles) happening a few years ago,” said Nighswonger, drenched from the rain and a celebratory water cooler bath. “I can’t believe it. These girls really put in the work. They put in the time. I’m really impressed and pleased with how far we’ve come as a program.”

Senior Kyla Moore rushed for 100 yards for Shadow Ridge (22-2). Junior Savanna McDow added 81 yards on the ground and scored a touchdown.

“We managed to pick it up, and it’s one heck of a way to go out,” Moore said. “It’s really extra special this year.”

Moore was one of three Mustangs to complete a pass. Her completion went to sophomore Jaylani Palmer for a 24-yard touchdown. Palmer finished with 91 receiving yards on six catches.

“Our passion for the game, it really helped us drive the ball forward,” Palmer said. “Our defense and our coaches and our teammates, they all gave us that power to keep going and keep fighting no matter what.”

Palo Verde (20-5) and Shadow Ridge ran the ball early when the rain was at its heaviest. Moore found Palmer on the Mustangs’ second possession for the game’s first score.

The Panthers intercepted the ensuing point-after attempt and ran it back to the end zone. That kept Shadow Ridge’s lead to 6-2 midway through the first quarter.

Palo Verde’s best scoring chance came on the following drive. Quarterback Jordan Katz connected with Tia Brown on a 49-yard pass to go to Shadow Ridge’s 5-yard line.

The Mustangs’ defense stood tall and forced a turnover on downs late in the first quarter.

“That (stop) was insane,” Palmer said. “I think that told us that we were going to stop (Palo Verde) no matter what. They didn’t score once on the defense.”

McDow scored on a 19-yard run with seven minutes left in the second quarter, which helped Shadow Ridge take a 13-2 halftime lead.

Shadow Ridge added its final score midway through the third quarter. Jyniah Sanders hauled in a Chloe Covington pass that deflected off a Palo Verde defender for a 16-yard touchdown.

“That was huge,” Moore said. “It added extra stress and worry onto the other team.”

Shadow Ridge is the first team to win three straight state titles in the top class (4A/5A). The Mustangs are 67-8 the last three seasons.

“The seniors, they’ve been awesome,” Nighswonger said. “I’m really going to miss this group. We had 10 of them. They’ve really stepped up and embraced everything we asked of them.”

Nighswonger said his players did a “phenomenal” job of welcoming the high demands he’s set. They’ve now become the standard for flag football in the state.

“This group really does expect to win,” Nighswonger said. “Things are going to go wrong, things are going to be bad and we still know we have chances to come back. We know we can fight back.”

Contact Alex Wright at awright@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AlexWright1028 on X.

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