Panthers’ defense to be tested

Spring Valley football coach looks at Palo Verde and sees one thing:

"Consistency," Macon said. "They’re consistently one of the top teams in the state."

The Panthers have made it to the state semifinals for five straight years but need to show more consistency this season, especially on defense.

The fifth-ranked Panthers (2-0) face a big test at 7 tonight when they host second-ranked Spring Valley (3-0).

Palo Verde gave up 530 yards of offense and 40 points in its season opener, a 42-40 win over Sierra Vista. The Panthers were better defensively last week, holding Desert Pines to six points and 114 yards of offense.

"We’re coming along," said middle linebacker Dave Castro, son of the Palo Verde defensive coordinator by the same name. "The first game there were some mistakes, and now we’re picking it up."

Spring Valley should offer a challenge similar to Sierra Vista. The Grizzlies are a balanced team, averaging 153 yards rushing and 155 passing per game.

Sierra Vista rushed for 224 yards in the opener and, more importantly, torched the Panthers for 306 passing yards.

"It’s definitely a concern," Palo Verde coach Darwin Rost said of the Spring Valley passing game. "I don’t think coach Castro’s slept at all this week. We’ve definitely got to get some pressure on that quarterback and we’ve got to lock up on those receivers."

One of the keys to Spring Valley’s early success has been an improved running game. The Grizzlies averaged 90 yards rushing per game last season.

Stefan Klein leads the way with 37 carries for 289 yards and six touchdowns, nearly matching his season totals from last year when he had 308 yards and six TDs.

"If we can grind it out, 3, 4 yards here and just move the sticks, we’ll make a game of it," Macon said. "We can’t get in a situation where we’re not taking any time off the clock and keeping our defense on the field. If that happens, it’s going to be a long night."

Defense has been a strength for the Grizzlies. Spring Valley has allowed an average of 12.7 points per game this season.

"Defensively, that’s the heart of our team," Macon said. "If we want to have a shot of doing anything, it’s going to be defensively for us."

Rost said he thinks one of the keys for Spring Valley is its depth. No one plays both ways for the Grizzlies.

"They’re a two-platoon team," Rost said. "They’ve got kids only playing one way, and they’re real fresh. They’ve got fresh legs, and they’ll strike and hit you on defense."

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