A historic 2021-2022 season for the Palo Verde High School (PVHS) Yellow Jackets’ varsity football program came a close on Dec. 3, as the visiting Quartz Hill Royals defeated the home team 26-20 at Scott Stadium.
The Royals’ win was part of the 2021 CIF State Football Championship Bowl Games (Division 6-AA) regional finals.
“We got down, but the kids didn’t panic. The kids stayed true to the process. And we made a heck of a game out of a school we had no business playing. But that Quartz Hill is (a) well-coached, very good football team. But they didn’t understand what was going on, on both sides of the ball; or the heart and desire that our kids had. They were in, what each one of their coaches said at the end – the best game, the hardest game they’ve played all year. And that’s a true compliment – not to me, but to all my players,” shared PVHS Yellow Jackets’ varsity football head coach Wally Grant post-game. “I’ve got to thank – from the superintendent, all the way down. Because everyone stepped up to make this work. And I, unfortunately, can’t name all the names. But they know who they are. From the superintendent all the way down to the principal and staff at Margaret White – they all made things, put the chess pieces in play, so all this would work this year. And without all that support – and the community’s love and support – none of this, we wouldn’t be near where we’re at.”
Despite the loss, the hard-fought game saw this year’s Desert League Champions’ grit and determination on full display in front of a live and ready hometown crowd.
With the grandstands full, the Jackets found some early rushing success but were ultimately stopped in the Royals’ red zone for a turnover on downs.
A long passing and rushing series from the visiting team followed, ending in a touchdown and successful extra point kick to take the lead 7-0 with 2:02 left in the first quarter.
Soon after, a solid drive culminated with Jackets playmaker and junior student-athlete Markus Macon (2) breaking for a big rushing touchdown.
The game was 7-7 with 8.6 seconds left in the first quarter.
Following a big interception early in the second quarter by the Jackets’ junior Xavier Gonzales-Piñon (23), the home team drove down to the Royals’ red zone once again. Unfortunately, PVHS couldn’t capitalize and suffered a second turnover on downs.
The Jackets’ defense responded in the next drive by forcing and recovering a fumble.
Not to let another red zone opportunity go, PVHS marched the Royals down the field. Senior Aizik Gonzales (4) rushed for the second PVHS touchdown of the night with 15 seconds left in the half.
With a successful extra point kick, the Jackets took the lead 14-7 going into halftime.
A big kickoff return by the Royals opened the third quarter with the visiting team at the Jackets’ 35-yard line.
A touchdown by Quartz Hill followed at the 9:43 minute mark; with a successful extra point kick, the game was once more tied at 14-14.
Following a punt, the Royals’ standout senior quarterback Chalin Crawford (8) rushed in for a touchdown with 3:20 minutes left in the third quarter; a two-point conversion attempt was foiled by the Jackets, leaving the score at 20-14 Royals.
In the fourth quarter, the Jackets’ offense again marched down the field with Gonzales-Piñon (23) breaking for a 19-yard touchdown with a little under 8 minutes left in the game.
Similarly, the Jackets also had an extra point foiled which set the score at 20-20.
The Royals responded soon after with a four-yard rushing touchdown to take the lead 26-20. Again, the Jackets’ defense nixed a two-point conversion attempt by Quartz Hill.
Unfortunately, with roughly a minute left in the game, PVHS found itself facing a fourth and five. A passing attempt was incomplete, securing a turnover on downs and the win for the Royals.
The 2021-2022 PVHS Yellow Jackets varsity football team’s historic and unprecedented season ended with an overall record of 11-3 (4-0, league) in front of an appreciative crowd of alumni, friends, and families.
“(This is) more than I ever dreamt. Just unbelievable,” shared Grant. “Words – I’m not smart enough to have that expanded vocabulary to describe how I’ve felt; how I’m feeling; how I’m going to continue feeling for the rest of my life. Because I am just so fortunate and lucky and proud of what these coaches started way back in the summer. And how the kids just responded to everything – and kept moving forward. Win, lose, or draw, they understood – each week gets harder. That’s what good teams do; they get better each week and they have to work harder in order for that to happen (...) I’m lucky in that I get to sit in the driver’s seat and call the plays; but they’re putting in the work Saturday through Thursday to get ready for Friday. I have the easy job; they’re the ones putting in the hours in making this work.”