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No. 2 Palo Verde fends off No. 4 Gorman in flag football — PHOTOS

Palo Verde’s flag football team could have jumped out to an early lead against Bishop Gorman on Friday night if not for a few dropped passes.

Luckily for the Panthers, their defense gave them a spark to take control of the game.

With Palo Verde trailing by a point, Arden Petkewich picked off Gorman quarterback Avery Reed and returned it over 45 yards for a touchdown with under two minutes left in the first half.

The Panthers, No. 2 in the Review-Journal’s Class 5A rankings, added a pair of second-half touchdowns to hold on for a 25-14 home win over No. 4 Gorman.

“I was just trying to get a break on the ball to get the flag as fast as possible, and I just happened to be at the right place at the right time,” Petkewich said. “I just tried to take it as far up the field as I could. It was a giant momentum swing. It helped us get it together.”

Palo Verde (17-2, 8-0 5A Southern League) had two interceptions and five sacks and stopped four drives for Gorman (10-4, 7-1) on fourth down. Panthers quarterback Jordan Katz threw three touchdown passes, all to different receivers.

“If we didn’t get that (pick-six) and let Gorman score (before halftime), it’s probably a completely different ballgame,” Palo Verde coach Rick Eurich said.

The win sets up a showdown Monday when Palo Verde hosts top-ranked Shadow Ridge, which has won the past two 5A state titles, at 4:30 p.m.

“The kids persevered, and they grinded,” Eurich said. “The defense came up big with the pick-six, and we grinded and got the job done at the end.”

Gorman briefly held a 14-13 lead early in the third quarter when Reed connected with Niah Waldman on a 3-yard TD pass.

The Gaels wouldn’t score again. Palo Verde gave up three first downs the rest of the game.

Katz connected with Olivia Perkins on a 25-yard touchdown in the third quarter to put the Panthers back ahead. Then she found Samantha Manzo, who made a leaping catch over for a Gorman defender for a 26-yard score in the fourth quarter.

With over two minutes left in the fourth quarter, a Gorman holding penalty negated a touchdown. Palo Verde’s Madeline West then came up with a pass breakup on fourth down to force a turnover on downs.

“They knew … this was a big game — two undefeated teams in the league — this was a huge game,” Eurich said. “I think we came out a little too juiced and were a little too hyped. I trusted that they would settle down, and they did eventually.”

Reed completed 27 of 42 passes for 245 yards with two touchdowns — including a 3-yard score to Olivia Cobell in the first quarter — and two interceptions for Gorman.

Lauren Moses had a 5-yard first-quarter touchdown catch for Palo Verde.

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

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