Citizen Staff Writer
PALO VERDE 33 BUCKEYE 20
Palo Verde fell behind early to Buckeye and had to fight back to tie the score at halftime.
But the Titans never panicked, thanks to Adam Hall, a strong offensive line and a defense that buckled down in the second half.
Palo Verde pulled away behind two Hall touchdown runs in the third quarter to win the Class 4A-II state playoff game 33-20.
The Titans (10-1) will host Santa Rita (10-1) on Friday.
“The offensive line is the reason we were able to move the ball on the ground tonight,” said Hall, who finished with 68 yards on 14 carries and three scores. “And our defense and everyone did their own job.”
Buckeye marched 76 yards on the first possession, scoring on a 5-yard run by quarterback Terence Wilson. The Hawks, however, lost star running back Randy Hale on the drive, and he missed the rest of the game.
Palo Verde struck back with a 1-yard TD run by Hall, set up by a 27-yard pass to Camaren Gause earlier in the drive.
The Titans took a 10-6 lead halfway through the second quarter on a 24-yard field goal by Asani Igulu, but the Hawks came right back to score on a 3-yard run by Ryan Taborn to go up 13-10.
But Palo Verde wasn’t done as quarterback Ernesto Espinoza found Hall for a 38-yard pass with 23 seconds left. That led to a game-tying Igulu 40-yard field goal with no time left in the half.
The Titans kept the momentum in the third quarter, driving 64 yards on their first possession to score on a 13-yard run by Hall.
Palo Verde’s Chris Campbell blocked a Hawks’ punt, and on the next play, Hall added a 10-yard TD run to make it 26-13.
The Titans put the game away with a 40-yard TD run by Travis Anderson with 6:46 left and a punishing defense that forced two turnovers and had three sacks.
“We came back tonight,” Palo Verde coach Todd Mayfield said, “and I’m excited that we have a chance to play another day.”
Running back Taborn led Buckeye with 90 yards and two touchdowns.