Friday, the Panthers redeemed themselves with a 49-3 blow out of No. 10 St. Pius X in the first round of the state playoffs.
Bryson Martinez gained 202 yards on offense and scored three touchdowns to lead PV's offensive assault.
“We took care of the ball and everyone played as a team,” said the senior wide receiver. “That was our best game this year.”
Junior quarterback Isaiah Valdez rebounded from a disappointing outing against Farmington last week to throw for two touchdowns while running for two more scores.
The win came in response to a 30-28 loss to the Sartans on Oct. 19 that ended the Panthers' unbeaten streak to start the season.
It was the first time PV had defeated St. Pius in school history after losing the previous six matchups and was the first playoff win for the Panthers since 2008.
A key injury hampered the St. Pius offense as running back Nic Stafford sat out the game with a leg injury.
“That running back was really good,” Valdez said. “But one player isn't a team.”
Stafford's absence was felt immediately when Sartan running back Austin Baca fumbled 20 seconds into the game. Martinez recovered for the Panthers before scoring the opening touchdown four minutes later on a 17-yard pass from Valdez.
The PV quarterback extended the lead to 14-0 late
in the first quarter, scampering 48 yards on an option play for six points.
The Panther defense stepped up again as Aaron Rino forced and recovered a fumble from St. Pius quarterback Javier Jaramillo two minutes into the second quarter.
The offense took just a minute and 20 seconds to respond with Valdez again hitting Martinez for a score, this time on a 20-yard bubble-screen pass.
The Sartans got on the board with a 37-yard field goal four minutes before halftime.
On the ensuing kickoff, Martinez fumbled the ball out at his own two0-yard line, pinning the Panthers deep in Sartan territory.
Martinez wasted no time making up for the error, taking a Valdez pitch 96 yards for a touchdown two plays later.
“I went in the huddle and told them it was my fault, and I’ll get them back,” Martinez said. “I didn’t think it would come two plays later, though.”
The second half was more Panther domination.
Valdez and Stratton Waller each ran for a score and Beau Clafton intercepted two Sartan passes, returning the second one 84 yards for a touchdown.
The Panthers defense held the Sartan running game to 105 yards on 33 carries and forced four turnovers, while the offense gained 417 yards — 289 of which came on the ground.
PV will now prepare for a road game against No. 2 Los Lunas on Friday or Saturday.
“We’re going to have to play a great game against a Los Lunas team that’s firing on all cylinders,” said Panthers’ head coach Jared Howell. “But that’s why they play the game, and when we stay together and play a complete game, we’re going to be a tough team.”
The PV players know what it will take to pull off an upset over the the unbeaten Tigers.
“We have got to play a better game than we did tonight,” Martinez said. “We need to prepare with a good week of practice. They are a tough team and are 10-0 for a reason.”