On Nov. 26, the Palo Verde High School (PVHS) Yellow Jackets’ varsity football team earned the unprecedented and historic title of CIF-San Diego Section (Division V) Champions.
The unrelenting Jackets squad routed the Mission Bay Buccaneers 41-19 at Grossmont High School in El Cajon, Calif., to top off what now goes down as the most accomplished varsity football season for PVHS to date.
“The game plan (was) what it is each and every week – it’s to find out what they’re doing defensively to try to stop us offensively. It’s only four plays – but each play hits a particular gap, and whatever gap they leave open – when we hit it, it usually breaks pretty big. So it’s just following the system,” shared PVHS Yellow Jackets’ varsity football head coach Wally Grant post-game. “The kids are – the kids have bought in; they can tell me, ‘Hey, we need to run this one, coach. They’re doing this, we need to go back to that.’ What makes the play calling really, really work – they all, whether it’s our line: everyone’s blocking. And everyone’s bought into that concept. I’m not worried about ego; they check their egos at the door (and) they know they’ve got to block. When they do, the (rushers) – they know, when they get the ball, the front is going to block for them.”
When asked what Grant was feeling, the three-year PVHS varsity head coach – who debuted in 2019 with now roughly three decades’ worth of football coaching experience – stated:
“Proud. You know, it hasn’t hit me yet because I still want to play for the kids. But to do something that hasn’t been done in school history – is special. It catches my heart because these kids and my coaches have all put the work in. Bought into the system, and we’re the dividends of that. (...) I love it. The whole community’s bought into what we’re trying to do, and what I’m trying to get accomplished. It’s been a blessing.”
The Nov. 26 showdown against Mission Bay saw the Jackets get off to an unrelenting start, securing four first downs in the first series before PVHS senior Aizik Gonzales (4) rushed in for the first touchdown of the night.
The four-yard rushing touchdown was followed up with an extra point through the uprights by PV to set the score at 7-0, Jackets, with 3:48 left in the first quarter.
Mission Bay would close the first quarter scoreless.
The second quarter saw the Jackets continuing to mount pressure, with a series that delivered a one-yard rushing touchdown by Markus Macon (2), and the extra point with 9:49 left in the half to push the lead 14-0.
Approximately six minutes into the second, the Buccaneers found the end zone via a six-yard passing completion for Mission Bay’s first touchdown.
A successful extra point set the score at 14-7, Jackets.
In response, roughly three minutes later, PVHS delivered a 14-yard rushing touchdown from Gonzales (4) along with an extra point to push the lead 21-7 with a little over three minutes left in the quarter.
A solid fourth-down defensive turnover on downs with less than a minute left by the Jackets closed the first half at 21-7.
Mission Bay found some success through the air early in the third, with the first series seeing another passing touchdown to set the box score at 21-13; the Buccaneers’ extra point kick was no good.
The undeterred Jackets responded in-kind with a long rushing series, seeing another six go up roughly seven minutes later courtesy of PVHS junior Xzavier Bejarano (5). Similarly, PVHS missed the extra point kick setting the score at 27-13 Jackets.
In the fourth quarter, PV took control early and did not let up.
Behind key blocking, the Jackets’ Bejarano (5) and Macon (2) both saw the endzone once more.
Bejarano (5) capped a rushing drive off with a one-yard run about a minute and a half into the fourth quarter to push the lead for PVHS 34-13 following a successful extra point kick.
Macon (2) and the frontline blocking continued the pressure roughly three minutes later with a 44-yard rushing touchdown; a skirmish on the field was followed by a successful extra point kick, setting the box score at 41-13 Jackets.
Mission Bay’s last trip to the end zone came via a one-yard rushing touchdown with roughly three minutes left in the game, plus a missed extra point, to settle the final at 41-19 Jackets.
As reported by the PVHS Stinger School Newspaper post-game, the Jackets’ gate accounted for 850 tickets sold. Additionally, the Stinger also reported Jackets senior Nicolas Garnica (65) being selected as the Sportsmanship Award recipient for the CIF-San Diego Section (Division 5) Championship game.
“Together, the players and coaches committed all season long in preparation for this championship game. To not only experience success in hard-fought victory repeatedly this season, but to ignite such overwhelming community support behind these boys is special,” stated PVHS Athletic Director Genevieve Hann to the Times. “The championship title will have a long-lasting impact in growing the football program here at PV. The win represents a legacy that will be left by our current student-athletes, instills hope for all future Yellow Jackets, and most importantly activates a belief in community. PV Athletics is so incredibly proud of this team and thankful for the overwhelming support from the Blythe Community in celebrating the success of our 2021 varsity football team and CIF-San Diego Section DV Football Champions.”
The pride and victory shared by the PVHS family at Grossmont was preceded by a pep rally earlier in the day at Scott Stadium.
“They can’t stop what they can’t catch,” read one supporting locals’ prophetic sign.
As a heralding precursor send-off for the Jackets’ football team, cheerleaders, and band members, school leadership organized the special PVHS event.
From the Scott Stadium parking lot, down Lovekin, and lining Hobsonway, the send-off saw folks celebrate the students before the three-hour charter bus trek toward the CIF-San Diego Section (Division V) title game in El Cajon.
With City of Blythe Mayor Dale Reynolds in attendance, the Yellow Jackets’ were led through town by supporting area California Highway Patrol (CHP); Blythe Police Department (BPD); Riverside County Sheriff’s Department; U.S. Border Patrol (Yuma Sector – Blythe Station); and the Blythe Fire Department.
“Congratulations to our boys varsity football team for bringing home the CIF San Diego Section Division V Championship Win! They defeated Mission Bay in a dominating 41-19 victory in front of a grandstand full of PV fans at Grossmont High School Friday night! A history in the making, gentlemen! Your Yellow Jacket family is beyond proud of you! A special shout out to Nicolas Garnica for winning the CIF San Diego Section Sportsmanship Award! Way to go, Nico! Also big shout-out to the Varsity Cheer Team (and) PVHS Band who made the long trek to El Cajon with our Football team on Friday,” shared PVHS Principal Rachel Angel. “Kick-starting the evening under the lights with the National Anthem at the Championship Game, our band made the PV presence known. And (a) huge thank you to our Varsity Cheerleaders, who cheered loud and proud all night long to ignite Jacket Pride and the most impressive cheering crowd ever in the numerous Yellow Jacket fans who filled the stadium. As the principal of Palo Verde High School, I am beyond proud of our Yellow Jackets, coaches, staff and community. Everyone came together to make this such a fantastic game and evening of immense honor and pride. Let’s bring the crowd again as PV Varsity Football Champions host a CIF State Regional game this Friday at Scott Stadium. More information will follow this week. Let’s show our support by wearing Green & Gold Friday! We need to keep the momentum going! Let’s go, Jackets!”
PVHS will now host a 2021 CIF State Football Championship Bowl Game (Division 6-AA) regional finals’ match-up against the visiting Quartz Hill High School Royals at Scott Stadium (667 N. Lovekin) this Friday, Dec. 3 (7:30 p.m.).
Stay tuned to the PVHS Stinger’s social media page for all official and upcoming ticket information: facebook.com/PVStinger
(Note: Big thanks to Blythe local and on-site sports correspondent Daniel Ochoa for the special contributions and photos included in this Times report.)