Some teams shake off a bad loss, move on and focus on the next opponent without any distractions.
Palo Verde couldn’t let go of last week’s 50-36 defeat at Centennial.
The Panthers flexed their offensive muscle Friday, rolling up 503 yards en route to a 55-35 victory over visiting Faith Lutheran.
The win pushed Palo Verde (7-2, 4-1 Northwest League) one game in front of the Crusaders (4-5, 3-2) in the division and set up next week’s showdown with first-place Arbor View.
Palo Verde quarterback Paul Myro completed 5 of 8 passes for 127 yards and one touchdown — all in the first half — and ran for three touchdowns with 95 yards on 11 carries.
Dacen Phister paced Palo Verde’s rushing attack with 124 yards on eight carries and two touchdowns, while Charron Thomas ran for 111 yards on 19 carries and Tyler Quinn chipped in with 48 yards on seven rushes and one touchdown.
But while it was the offense capitalizing on a banged-up Faith Lutheran defense that was missing key personnel to injuries, it was the Panthers’ stifling defense that limited the Crusaders to 104 yards in the first half and allowed Palo Verde to take a 27-8 halftime lead.
“Our defense was challenged last week. They were not happy with the result of that game, and we asked them to step up,” Palo Verde coach Joe Aznarez said. “For a good portion of the game they did. It got a little crazy there toward the end.”
Leading the Panthers on defense with several big hits was Amir McGruder, who returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown and had two receptions on offense for 67 yards, including a 31-yard touchdown.
“It all started with the week of preparation in practice,” McGruder said. “We changed some things up, we were lazy these past couple of weeks in practice, as far as practice goes. We decided to buckle down and give it 110 percent in practice.”
It showed against Faith Lutheran.
The Panthers scored on seven of their 12 possessions, and two of the times they didn’t Myro knelt with the ball to end the first half and the game.
Myro’s poise and leadership was on display the entire game, as he celebrated Senior Night by either dropping back as a pocket passer, plowing through the line like a fullback or displaying his speed like a halfback to control the offense.
“We came out this week knowing Faith Lutheran beat Centennial, and we wanted to come out here and make a statement saying that we’re still in this,” Myro said. “There was tons of emotions. We haven’t beaten Faith Lutheran in years at this school, so just coming out here and making this statement and winning on Senior Night is very important to me and all the seniors on the team.”
Despite falling behind 41-14 after three quarters, Faith Lutheran made things interesting in a wild fourth quarter that saw both teams combine for 35 points. The Crusaders got within 13 with seven minutes left in the game, but Palo Verde used a nine-play drive to eat up close to five minutes before Quinn punched in the last score of the night to push the Panthers’ lead back to 20.
The Crusaders were led by Riley Schwartz, who completed 11 of 28 passes for 167 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Marcos Canales had 59 yards on 14 carries and three touchdowns.