The Palo Verde High School (PVHS) Yellow Jackets football team brought every bit of pride to match the eager anticipation of the hometown crowd on Saturday, as the ready Scott Stadium varsity squad delivered a historic 20-16 win.
After a challenging year-plus absence due to COVID public health and safety mandates, the 2021 PVHS home opener saw the Yellow Jackets’ relentless rushing attack and crucial defensive play get the better of the visiting San Diego, Calif.,-based (Division II) Morse High School Tigers.
“It’s a Division V school in Palo Verde beating a Division II school in Morse – huge,” shared PVHS Yellow Jackets’ varsity football head coach Wally Grant. “I can’t imagine that there’s been one or two bigger wins in this program’s entire history. This was pretty huge. (...) Morse is a physical team that runs a very similar offense to us. I was really worried coming in that we would have too many injuries to really try to be successful for the rest of the year. But our kids stepped up mentally, stepped up emotionally and stepped up physically.”
In observance and solemn remembrance of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, PVHS Scott Stadium also had a memorial to pay tribute and honor to the 13 service men and women recently killed on Aug. 26 in Kabul, Afghanistan.
The historic evening game brought Palo Verde Valley friends and families together – with according COVID public health/safety guidelines – to watch live varsity high school football from the home stands for the first time since Nov. 8, 2019.
For the varsity Yellow Jackets, this season’s consistent and effective rushing game plan delivered 253 yards on 41 carries against the Tigers.
The Jackets’ rushing attack was again led by standout student-athletes in junior running backs Xzavier Bejarano (5) and Markus Macon (2), as well as stellar senior playmaker Aizik Gonzalez (4) – all of whom had a touchdown (TD) each.
- Xzavier Bejarano (5): 10 carries; 131 yards; 1 TD.
- Aizik Gonzales (4): 14 carries; 62 yards ; 1 TD.
- Markus Macon (2): 13 carries; 37 yards; 1 TD.
- Xavier Gonzales-Piñon (23): 2 carries; 6 yards.
- Anthony Richards (8): 1 carry; 17 yards.
- Rio Albanez (7): 1 carry; 0 yards.
The rushing game was also supplemented by the Jackets’ solid frontline blocking.
The home team set the pace and tone early, converting a fourth down in the first quarter which led to a touchdown.
Notably, Bejarano’s 89-yard rushing touchdown in the third quarter would be the junior’s last play of the night following a bout with dehydration. As later confirmed to the Times, Bejarano is expected to be good to go for the upcoming game.
The Jackets’ pressuring defense also proved too much for the visiting Tigers, ensuring Morse’s offense never got into a consistent enough rhythm either on the ground or the air.
- Xavier Gonzales-Piñon (23): 12 tackles (2 tackles for loss); 8 solo, 4 assists.
- Markus Macon (2): 9 tackles; 4 solo, 5 assists; 1 interception.
- Aizik Gonzales (4): 7 tackles; 4 solo, 3 assists; 2 deflections.
- Anthony Richards (8): 8 tackles; 4 solo, 4 assists; 1 deflection.
- Ian Maciel (15): 7 tackles (1 sack, 1 tackles for loss); 2 solo, 5 assists.
- Nicolas Garnica (65): 4 tackles (2 tackles for loss); 2 solo, 2 assists.
Macon’s 64-yard interception came with less than a minute left in the second quarter to seal a solid shutout halftime lead for the Jackets at 13-0.
“I’m proud, I’m proud,” noted Grant. “We played good enough defense to stop their run – which, that’s their bread and butter – and forced them into a spread offense that they don’t work on very much. And made them use that a lot. So, I’m proud that my kids did what they were supposed to do to force a school that runs the ball like us – and expects to get 300, 400 yards a game running the ball – and we shut it down, for the most part. And forced them to try to put the ball in the air.”
PVHS: 15 plays, 58 yards (Macon with a 5 yard rushing touchdown) – 6-0.
PVHS: 11 plays, 70 yards (Gonzales with a 1 yard rushing touchdown; plus, Gonzales with the successful extra point kick) – 13-0.
Morse: 5 plays, 29 yards (7 yard rushing touchdown; plus, a successful 2-point conversion) – 13-8.
PVHS: 2 plays (Bejarano with an 89 yard rushing touchdown; plus, Gonzales with the successful extra point kick) – 20-8.
Morse: 7 plays, 41 yards (7 yard touchdown pass) – 20-16, final.
Morse’s last touchdown pass to the south corner of the east end zone would come in the closing seconds of the game.
“We’re coming off a bye, and then we’ve got a Thursday game; so it’s a quick turnaround,” noted Grant. “I’m just extremely proud of my program. I can’t tell you how happy I am at the way the kids are, the way the coaches are, and what’s happened with this program these last three years. Thank you.”
The historic win vs. Morse moves the Yellow Jackets’ 2021 record to 2-1 this season.
Next, PVHS squares off at home against the visiting and undefeated Shadow Hill High School Knights (Indio, Calif.) in a non-league game on Thursday, Sept. 16 (kickoff at 4 p.m., JV; 7 p.m., varsity).
The 4-0 Knights recently dispatched the Paloma Valley High School Wildcats (Menifee, Calif.) in a shutout, 21-0, on Sept. 10.
For the most up-to-date schedules (subject to change), dates, times, and to keep track of the official PVHS Athletics’ calendar, visit: pvhs.pvusd.us/Athletics/Schedule
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