The mark of a champion is to get up after a knockdown and come back strong and with intensity against the opponent.
The Pahranagat Valley High football team did just that, and went on to a 36-8 win over Spring Mountain to earn a state record sixth consecutive NIAA Division IV state football championship. The game was played on a rainy day at Indian Springs High Nov. 23.
After getting punched in the mouth, and trailing for the first time all season at halftime, the Panthers (12-0) returned from the break reinvigorated with new intensity to score 30 unanswered points and post their 69th consecutive win, longest winning streak in the nation.
Assistant coach Brian Higbee said, “First half we just were not able to be in sync offensively with our running game. We had to adjust our running game that wasn’t working. In the second half, we came out and our offensive line just took over, and we were able to run up inside and outside. We kept them kind of off balance that way. The front line did a really nice job of creating lanes and holes for our running backs, and our backs were running hard.”
In the first half, both teams struggled moving the ball very far on each other, going three and out several times. The only two scores of the first half were by the defense. Jordon Cryts got Pahranagat on the board with 1:12 left in the first quarter with a 70-yard punt return, but the point after was missed.
In the second quarter, Spring Mountain’s Arias Jefferson intercepted a Panther pass at the 25-yard line with 1:10 left, and two plays later Joshua Banasiak pushed across from the one-yard line with 33 seconds left, and with the conversion, Spring Mountain took an 8-6 lead.
Banasiak finished the game 11 for 24 passing for 116 yards, and carried seven times for 14 yards. Jefferson finished up with only seven carries for 19 yards.
Alamo had a chance before the half ended, moving to the 18-yard line in the final half-minute, but could not score as time expired.
The second half was entirely different, as the Panthers clearly dominated both sides of the ball, and Alamo’s 1150 backfield got moving like the well-oiled machine they are. Higbee has long said, “If you execute the fundamentals well, good things will happen.”
Spring Mountain (7-3) got the ball to open the second half, but quarterback Banasiak was sacked three times in a row by the reignited Panthers and forced to punt. Pahranagat then sustained a long drive to the one-yard line. From there Cryts took the handoff and bounced wide to the left, and into the corner of end zone for the go-ahead score.
Alamo kept the ball pretty much on the ground thereafter, with sweeps, power dives, and short over-the-middle passes, controlling time of possession so much the Eagles only had four plays in the third quarter.
In the third and fourth quarter, juniors Wade Leavitt and Cryts piled up the yards, each getting two touchdowns. Leavitt scored on two four-yard runs and Cryts got his third of the game on a 13-yard run.
Spring Mountain coach Aaron Masden said, “I don’t think we came out and matched the intensity in the second half. We knew that Alamo was going to come out hard. We talked about it, but just didn’t quite get the intensity to execute and match what the Panthers were going to do. We knew coming into the game, (due to weather conditions), that execution and turnovers were going to determine the outcome, and it did.”
Maxwell finished the game passing 12 for 20, 118 yards and one interception. Leavitt was the game’s leading rusher with 21 carries for 141 yards, with Cryts right behind with 93 yards on 18 carries. Leavitt also had seven pass receptions for 73 yards.
Higbee said, “It was a matter of the offensive line coming to play, getting after them and creating holes. Those five kids up front got after them.”
Leavitt said, “Second half we got back to Panther football and we overpowered them, just like usual. We ran powers and dives, with our line physically overpowering the defensive line of Spring Mountain. Our line opened up the gaps and I just ran.”
Higbee said, “Wade started for us a freshman and he brings a dynamic and tremendous work ethic, more heart than anything you’ll ever see. And he brings that to this team.”
For his freshman season, Maxwell set at least three new school quarterback records for Pahranagat: 2,546 yards, 38 touchdowns, and longest TD pass, 99 yards (to Cryts) which ties the all-time state record. He was fifth on the yardage list among quarterbacks in all of southern Nevada.
Leavitt finished the season with 1,271 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns. He missed one game, too. Cryts had 687 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Leavitt was the leading scorer in southern Nevada with 180 points, and Cryts was No. 2 with 158 points.
Cryts tied with Samuel Liaga of Centennial for most pass interceptions in southern Nevada with 7. Jeremy Minick was fifth on the list with 6.
Pahranagat Valley loses only two seniors this season, Jake Carter and Jamie Schofield, and return nine seniors in 2014.