Vincent Palma

David Rodriguez remembers game-planning to stop Vincent Palma.

“We would have to find him, watch him, see where he was at on the field and where he was at defensively,” said Rodriguez, Sahuarita’s coach, “because we had to set things up to maybe run away from him.”

And when the Mustangs faced Pueblo last year, it worked for the most part. Palma was held to 65 yards rushing, with one fumble, as Sahuarita won 59-17.

However, it wasn’t easy to stop Palma last year — just ask Douglas, who he rushed for 231 yards and three touchdowns against. On the season, he had 868 rushing yards and nine total touchdowns.

Now, though, Rodriguez can breathe a sigh of relief, because he won’t have to game-plan against Palma anymore. Instead, he can game-plan for him.

Palma transferred to Sahuarita for his senior season. The Mustangs, who moved down from Division III after last season, will open their season tonight at 7 at Lakeside Blue Ridge, a Division IV state finalist last year.

“It’s been going great, I’m really excited for the season,” said Palma, a running back and defensive end. “I’m not used to it, I’ve always been at the same school so it’s something new, it’s a fresh start, and it feels good.”

The transfer came about because of some academic issues Palma had at Pueblo.

“It’s great to have him with us instead of having to play against him,” Rodriguez said. “I’ll tell you that much.”

The Star spoke with Palma before practice this week.

On his reasons for transferring:

“It was for academic reasons. I started struggling and I needed a fresh start, and it just felt right here at Sahuarita. So far, it’s a good choice.”

On Sahuarita’s strengths:

“The team is great, we got great linebackers, all around great players with a great attitude and so far it’s good.”

On his goals for the season:

“Win state and hopefully earn myself an athletic scholarship somewhere. Getting good grades in there (school) and doing good out here. I want to get straight A’s and a better GPA so I can take it to the next level, because I want to go to college. That’s it right now. Hopefully we can go undefeated, go up there and beat Blue Ridge and bring home a ring.”