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Blake’s two punt return TDs lead Palo Verde past Centennial

Palo Verde head coach Darwin Rost was happy to see Centennial’s spread offense Friday night; his Panthers will face a similar system in the opening round of next week’s Sunset Region playoffs.

Rost was also all smiles after seeing what senior Tyrone Blake could do.

Blake scored three touchdowns, including a pair of punt returns, as the No. 3 Panthers tuned up for postseason play with a 42-7 victory over Centennial (3-7, 3-5 Northwest).

Palo Verde (9-1, 7-1), riding a 20-home game win streak, scored 14 points in the first four minutes of the game before Blake took over the contest.

He had 64- and 61-yard punt returns for touchdowns in the second quarter.

“I’ve never returned two punts back for touchdowns before,” Blake said. “Everything was set up beautifully on both returns. Coach Rost always stressed how important the special teams are — it’s 1/3 of the game.”

The Panthers rushed for 294 yards, led by Chappell Thomas’ 76 yards on five carries. Blake added 75 yards on 12 attempts.

Equally impressive was the Palo Verde defense, holding Centennial to 124 total yards. The Bulldogs ran a paltry 34 rushing plays, 11 for no gain or a loss.

Centennial’s lone score came in the first minute of the fourth quarter, an 18-yard run by Taj Cole.

“Now it’s the third season, the playoffs,” Blake said. “We’ve worked so hard to get to this point, and now we just need to continue to get better.”

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