“Going for one more!” The rallying cry of the seven seniors on the Pahranagat Valley football team this season as they take aim at capturing their fourth straight state championship, and extending the list of Alamo players who can say they won the state title all four years of high school.
The team has its first four games at home, beginning Aug. 28 with Wells, then four of the next five on the road.
PVHS, the six-time defending NIAA Division IV state champion, return nearly their entire team from last year. Only two players graduated, Jake Carter, the 2013 Southern League MVP, and Jamie Schofield, and tight end/cornerback Jeremy Minick transferred out of state last spring.
The Panthers begin with one of their largest rosters in over 20 years with 32 players turned out.
Pahranagat Valley will look forward to continuing to build on the nation’s longest high school winning streak, 69 games, putting them in 12th place on the all-time list.
Head coach Ken Higbee says he and the players really don’t think about such things much, but he knows the fans like to.
The Panthers have won nine state titles since 2001, and have been in the championship game every year except 2002 and 2007. They have been in the state playoffs 16 straight years since 1998, and have been the Southern Division IV champions 12 of the last 13 years, missing out in 2002.
Sophomore quarterback Tabor Maxwell had an outstanding freshman season in 2013, passing for a school record 2,546 yards, on 155 of 239 attempts (64.8 percent), a record 38 touchdowns, and only eight interceptions. He also set a school and tied the all-time state record with a 99-yard touchdown pass
Higbee said the Panthers are primarily a ball control team and will feature a triple threat backfield of senior running backs, team captain Wade Leavitt, Jordan Cryts and Caleb Hansen. “It really will depend on what we want to exploit by taking advantage of the mismatches,” he said. “There are times we’re going to throw the heck out of the ball, and there’s times when we are going to run it a lot, turn it over to the linemen, let those backs get off the football and get after things.”
Leavitt ran for 1,334 yards (9.39 ave.) on 142 carries and 15 touchdowns. Cryts had 706 yards on 74 carries (9.54 ave.) and 14 touchdowns. Hansen rushed for 512 yards on 63 carries and seven touchdowns.
As receivers, Leavitt caught 48 passes for 854 yards and 11 touchdowns and Cryts caught 21 passes for 400 yards and six touchdowns, including the record setting 99-yarder. In addition, Shawn Wadworth had 30 catches for 619 yards and eight touchdowns.
“Our linemen are going to be a strength as well,” says Higbee. “It’s tough losing Jake Carter, but Paden Higbee (6-2, 230) is back at center, Utah Ray (5-10, 170) at guard, and we’re looking at Mateo Linares (5-6, 180), Cody Stirling (6-0, 140), and Channer Hollingshead (5-11, 190) to add depth to that line. We’ve got as good a depth as we’ve had since I’ve coached here.”
In addition, Paden will move into the nose guard position on defense that has been a strength for the Panthers all during their current championship run.
Assistant coaches this year will be offensive coordinator Brian Higbee, (Ken’s brother), Mike Sparrow, special teams coach; Mike Strong, Sr., defensive coordinator; Wade Poulsen, defensive and offensive line coach; Brett Hansen, tight ends and defensive ends coach, and Mike Strong, Jr., as linebacker coach.
Two new teams have been added to the league this year, making it a nine-team league. The newcomers are Beaver Dam, in Littlefield, Arizona, and Quest Academy of Las Vegas. Beaver Dam and has spent the last two years playing an independent probationary period. In football, the Diamondbacks were 1-6 in 2013.
Pahranagat does not play Quest Academy this season but does play at Beaver Dam Oct. 30.
The two new schools play volleyball and basketball as well, making that now an 11-team league.
Coral Academy in Henderson had been placed in Division IV for this year, but in June the NIAA granted the school a two-year independent status, and voted to have Somerset Academy of Las Vegas also play another year as an independent.