McQueen caps unbeaten season, beats Palo Verde
BY ROB RENAUD
Nevada Appeal sportswriter
A game that was expected to be a shoot-out between two undefeated teams featuring high powered offenses turned into trench warfare as the McQueen Lancers rallied in the fourth quarter to beat Palo Verde of Las Vegas 13-12 at Mackey Stadium and claim the 4A State Football Championship.
With the Panthers averaging 38.4 points per game and McQueen 41.7 points per game, the crowd had every reason to expect a high scoring affair, but big plays were the only way either team managed to score in the face of ferocious defense.
The win gives McQueen its sixth state title under head coach Ken Dalton.
“I’m very, very proud of this team,” said Dalton. “They always find a way, and that’s where I’m most proud.”
Anthony Martinez was the offensive hero for the Lancers, scoring the winning touchdown on a 59 yard run while gaining 128 yards on 13 carries and picking off two passes late to seal the game.
Palo Verde’s highly regarded speedster Torin Harris torched the Lancers for 144 yards and two scores, including a 54 yard TD run in the third quarter to put the Panthers ahead, but it wasn’t enough. Harris has signed to play at USC next fall.
Palo Verde received the opening kick-off, but quarterback Kelly Zurowski’s pass was intercepted by Trent Virden at the Lancer 45. On McQueen’s third play from scrimmage, Martinez took a pitch on the left side, danced through tacklers and broke free for 42 yards to the 5 yard line. Two plays later, he scored from the 1. His kick gave McQueen a 7-0 lead three minutes and 45 seconds into the game.
Palo Verde then put together a drive behind the inside running of 5-10, 215-pound senior Chaz Thomas, who had five carries for 26 yards on the march. Harris lined up for a direct snap at the Lancer 24 and outran the defense around the left side to score at 3:55 of the first quarter. The PAT failed and McQueen led 7-6.
Then the defenses began to flex their muscle.
The Lancers next drive stalled at the Panthers 26, and a 43 yard field goal attempt by Martinez was wide left.
After an exchange of punts, Palo Verde managed to move into Lancer territory once more before the halftime. The Panthers bogged down at the McQueen 24 though, and lined up for a 41 yard field goal attempt. The kick was short and wide, but the Lancers were flagged for running into the kicker, giving the Panthers a fourth and one. Thomas got the inside handoff, but was stood up by senior lineman Karrington Armstrong and several Lancer linebackers for no gain. McQueen took over on downs and ran out the clock to end the half.
The third quarter saw both defenses punishing the opposing running backs, as punts were exchanged.
Harris finally broke free for a 54 yard touchdown with 1:55 left in the period. The Panthers attempted two point conversion failed and Palo Verde led 12-7.
McQueen relying on senior work horse Tyler York managed to move down to Palo Verde’s 27, but Anthony Stolo’s pass on fourth and two fell incomplete as the partisan crowd groaned, wanting a pass interference call.
After another exchange of punts, the Lancers got the ball back on their own 41 with 2:58 remaining, and the feeling that this may be the last shot.
Martinez took Stolo’s pitch to the right side, cut left after clearing the line of scrimmage, and outran everyone to the end zone. The two point attempt came up short, but McQueen led 13-12 with 2:45 left to win a championship.
Palo Verde tried to get the ball outside to its speedsters, Harris and Sidney Hodges, but two passes went for no gain. Martinez then picked off Zurowski at the Panthers 45.
McQueen was forced to punt, and Palo Verde had one more opportunity with 19 seconds left. Harris took a direct snap and carried for 21 yards, always a threat to break free and go the distance. Harris then passed for five more to Tyrone Blake, who managed to get out of bounds with one tick left. Martinez intercepted Zukowski’s pass as time ran out to seal the win and give McQueen the title.
York carried 23 times, gaining 91 yards for McQueen, and Stolo threw for 27 yards, going 4 for 12.
Harris carried seven times to get his 144 for Palo Verde. Thomas was the workhorse, carrying the ball 17 times for 96 yards, almost entirely between the tackles.
Dalton was clear about where the kudos go for this win.
“This was a great team effort. We hung in and hung in and got it done. We won it up front. This is a great team.”