Magnificent Seven. Tabor Maxwell threw for six touchdowns and ran for another in leading Pahranagat Valley to a 66-34 win over Spring Mountain in the NIAA Division IV state championship game at The Meadows High in Las Vegas last week. It was the third straight year the teams have met in the state finals and the third win for the Panthers (12-0), extending their active national winning streak to 81.
It also gives PVHS a state record seven straight football titles, and tenth in the last 14 years for coach Ken Higbee.
With the Eagles (9-3) keying in on running back and league MVP Wade Leavitt, Maxwell was getting adequate protection from his offensive line, and able to find an open receiver, often employing the long ball.
He was 14-for-25, 341 yards, second best of his career, and connected with junior receiver Shawn Wadsworth on four touchdowns of 33, 35, 21, and 51 yards. He tossed a 22-yarder to Christian Higbee in the second quarter, and a 52-yarder to Leavitt in the fourth quarter to close out the Panther scoring.
A sophomore, Maxwell finished the season with 2,611 yards passing, breaking his own single season record of 2,546 set last year. He also had 38 touchdowns and only two interceptions. It was the second time this year he had six touchdown passes in one game, matching Cody Hosier, who also did it twice in 2010.
“I really didn’t think I threw that many touchdown passes,” Maxwell said. “I just thought we’d run the ball (with Leavitt) and then catch them off guard with the play-action pass. It just seemed to work out really well tonight. Shawn did a heck of a job getting open, and it seemed like they couldn’t stop him. They knew Wade was going to get the ball, but we have a lot of weapons on this team.”
Leavitt had 72 yards on 14 rushes, and Jordan Cryts 45 yards on 13 carries. Cryts also had a long punt return to set the team up for another score. Wadsworth had six catches for 168 yards.
The Eagles ground game glaringly non-existent by the Panther run defense, the team’s strongest weapon. They held leading rusher Nick Myers to only nine yards, forcing quarterback Edward London to go to the pass, which he did well. He was 26-of-45, 311 yards and four touchdowns. Maurice Stitt had 12 receptions and two of the four touchdowns. However, London was intercepted twice by Cryts, and Eagle receivers usually did not gain very many yards after the catch.
“We keep setting the bar higher and higher,” said Spring Mountain coach Aaron Masden. “And our kids just keep striving to achieve it. They’re looking to please and I’m really proud of the things they’ve done throughout the season.”
Pahranagat scored first, when Leavitt, who came in leading Southern Nevada with 43 touchdowns, had a 36-yard run on the Panthers’ first possession to make it 8-0 with 9:59 to go in the first quarter. After stopping the Eagles on downs, Maxwell came right back with a 33-yard TD pass to Wadsworth just over a minute later to go up 16-0.
“Tabor is a pretty special kid,” Higbee said. “He’s a fine quarterback, You’ve got to give credit to our front kids. They brought six guys every time, and he had enough time to throw.”
Senior center Paden Higbee, the coach’s nephew, anchored the line that allowed the passing game to work all season long, and said the whole team played really well this game.
Spring Mountain scored 12 unanswered points to make it 16-12 at the end of the first quarter. But, the Panthers erupted for a 30-point second quarter to take a 46-12 halftime lead. In about a six minute span, Maxwell hooked up with Wadsworth for two scores on 35 and 21-yard passes, another to Higbee for 22-yards, then added a 3-yard touchdown run with 38 seconds left. “Me and Tabor have been great friends,” Wadsworth said. “We play football, basketball and baseball together. All week we run patterns. We have a good connection, I think. We’re like brothers pretty much.”
In the fourth quarter, the teams traded touchdowns a couple of times. Spring Mountain scored on passes of 30 and 24 yards to Stitt and Jarron Belvin, only to have the Panthers respond quickly both times with Maxwell passing to Leavitt for 52 yards and Wadsworth for 51 yards.
Leavitt finished the season with 1,513 yards on 101 carries and 31 touchdowns. He also had 39 receptions for 838 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Jordan Cryts concluded the season with 581 yards on 57 carries and six touchdowns. He also had 8 interceptions. The school record is 10 by Austin Poulsen in 2012.
Wadsworth finished with 1,066 yards receiving on 59 receptions and 17 touchdowns.
All during the game, Panther kicker Chandler Palmer was trying to just pooch the ball into the soft spots over the first line of defenders on kickoffs, although not as well as he might have liked. So, the one time he did kick it deep, late in the game, Norm Crawford ran it back 78 yards for a touchdown.