The Paradise Valley Trojans have the look of a serious state title contender, and the Peoria Panthers would have no choice but to agree following the Trojans’ 35-6 win Friday night at Peoria High School in a Class 4A-I nonconference matchup.
The Panthers came into the game second in the 4A-I power-points rankings, 0.5 points ahead of the third-ranked Trojans. Both are chasing Scottsdale Saguaro, the two-time defending state champion.
A two-headed rushing monster in the form of Tyree Parker and Jake Brown punished the Panthers on the ground, and the Trojans (7-1) cashed in three first-half fumbles to build their big lead.
“The kids are doing what we asked them to do,” Trojans coach Donnie Yantis said. “We worked on stripping the ball for the last three weeks in practice, and the kids are following through.”
David Godley put the Trojans on the board on the opening drive when he darted in untouched from two yards out 1:51 into the game.
And then the fumbles started to plague the Panthers (7-1). Three of their first four drives ended with fumbles, and the Trojans capitalized.
Jake Brown capped off a nine-play drive with a 5-yard plunge to make it 14-0 as the Trojans opened the game with 13 straight running plays.
A fumble on a botched snap led to another Jake Brown touchdown. This time Brown rumbled in from 4 yards out and made it 21-6. Brown finished with 96 yards on nine carries and two touchdowns.
Parker knifed his way through the Panthers’ defense for a 13-yard touchdown run with 30 seconds left in the first half to send the Trojans to the locker room with a 22-point cushion.
The Trojans’ defense snuffed out any chance of a Peoria comeback in the third quarter. Paradise Valley's defense rose to the occasion and smothered Peoria quarterback Vinnie Spano on a fourth-and-1 run at the Trojans' 31-yard line on the opening series of the second half.
On the ensuing possession, Parker scored his second touchdown of the night. He took a screen pass from quarterback Kevin Spain and darted nearly untouched for a 56-yard touchdown catch to make it 35-6 midway through the third quarter. Parker finished with a hard-fought 34 yards on 14 carries.
“It’s amazing. I’ve never felt anything like this,” Spain said about the big win. “We played our hearts out and played as good as we can play.”
Paradise Valley was just as mortal as anyone else when it came to trying to slow down the awesome running power of Peoria running back Jamal Miles. Miles ran past the Trojans for 172 yards on 21 carries but failed to hit the end zone. His teammates didn't give him much support as they combined for 104 yards of total offense.
“He’s maybe the best back Peoria’s ever had. He did a great job,” Yantis said. “Our defense was about pursuit. He’d beat one or two guys but we’d have four or five others coming.”
The Trojans used several long drives to keep Miles off the field and minimize his impact on the game. They used a 13-play drive to keep Miles off nearly seven minutes of the second quarter and a nine-play drive kept him on the sidelines for four minutes early on.
Peoria’s lone score came off a 13-yard pass from Vinnie Spano to Joseph Tanis, but the extra point was missed. It cut the deficit to 14-6, but the fumbles kicked in again and the Panthers couldn’t put anything back together.
“One of my goals on the board was, ‘Make a statement, and our kids did that,’” Yantis said.
Despite the win, the road doesn’t get any easier, as the Trojans take on Chaparral Thursday night in a televised game. Chaparral wiped out Phoenix Shadow Mountain 57-12 Friday night.
“They’re going to be fired up after what happened at their place last year, and we have to have a great week of practice starting with tomorrow morning,” Yantis said.