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Les WillseyStaff Writer, AIA365.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Palo Verde (Nev.) has own motivation vs. Desert VistaAug 16, 2012
Las Vegas Palo Verde High didn't win a state football championship in Nevada last season. The Panthers lost in the playoffs to Bishop Gorman, which won a third consecutive state title.
Still, Palo Verde got the nod this spring as Nevada's big-school representative in the 7th annual Sollenberger Classic. Does that make Palo Verde a lesser opponent for Arizona big-school champ and representative, Desert Vista, on Saturday night at 7 at University of Phoenix Stadium?
Not in Desert Vista coach Dan Hinds' mind.
"They have a good program, and we expected a tough game no matter who we were matched up against," Hinds said.
Palo Verde has heard critcism over its selection back home, especially since Bishop Gorman has been a thorn in its side for the past several seasons (Palo Verde is the last Las Vegas school to defeat Bishop Gorman). That's where the bulk of Palo Verde's motivation will come in this game that honors the memory of the late state high school historian Barry Sollenberger.
"We lost a lot of good players, didn't win (state) and I think that makes people not expect much from us," Ryan Beaulieu, a threr-year starter at running back and defensive back, said. "We have guys ready to step up that people don't realize. We have a good team."
Palo Verde has lost one regular season game since 2007 and is 59-6 during that span. Plenty good enough to get a nod in a game meant to highlight quality programs from Arizona and Nevada, not necessarily or automatically a defending state champion.
Palo Verde coach Darwin Rost is proud his team is getting the chance to represent Nevada.
"It gives us the chance to feature our kids," Rost said. "Getting to compete against an Arizona school is something we're looking forward to. Arizona football is a whole other type. More teams like to throw it here, where Nevada is more run-oriented."
Desert Vista isn't a pass-happy program, but does enough to keep opponents honest. The Thunder will likely spend much of Saturday night on defense trying to contain a program that is run-oriented. Palo Verde threw an average of eight times a game last season.
Palo Verde, which operates out of the double wing, returns three of its top skill players from last year's 11-1 campaign, led by running back Lee Griggs, Beaulieu and quarterback Parker Rost. The Panthers are dabbling with the spread and have a good deal of team speed, particularly on defense.
Griggs, a senior and all-state selection at safety, posted 1,268 yards rushing and receiving last year. He scored 21 touchdowns. Beaulieu and averaged nearly eight yards per carry and plays corner back. Rost, the coach's son, completed 57 percent of his passes for 917 yards. Parker Rost tossed 13 TD passes and was intercepted five times.
Setting the tone on defense along with Griggs and Beaulieu is junior lineman Mike Hughes, who also plays tackle on offense and is getting his share of preseason accolades as a defender.
Both teams are getting their first invite to the Sollenberger Classic. In that respect they are even. Some of Desert Vista's players, however, have played at University of Phoenix Stadium (last November). So the shock and awe may be felt more by Palo Verde once the Panthers step on the field in full uniform.
"Our players are excited to represent Nevada," Darwin Rost said. "It's an honor we were asked, and should be a great experience."