Eight seniors will anchor Pahranagat Valley’s football fortunes on the gridiron this season. The front offensive and defensive line will be the main focus.
No longer seeking to keep clean their national record-setting nine-year winning streak, the Panthers can look to beginning a new string of wins.
Garett Higbee and Duston Stewart will be the mainstays of the line for first- year coach Brett Hansen.
Stewart, at center, weighs in at 255, and the 6-foot-three-inches tall Higbee tips the scale at 265.
Other seniors on the team include Culen Highbe, Brodey Maxwell, Hunter Hollingshead, Richard Lewis, Hagen Huntsman and Chris Thornton.
Hansen said the defense will be the team’s main strength. “What we might not be able to do offensively, we will have to do defensively. Richard Lewis was the league defensive MVP last year, and having him back as a linebacker will be key, along with Highbe as a defensive end and Higbee as a nose guard.”
Junior Preston Higbee takes over as the quarterback from 2016 league co-MVP Tabor Maxwell. Last year, Higbee, son of offensive coordinator Brian Higbee, played the position sparingly and was 10 of 16 passing for 154 yards and four touchdowns. He carried and ran the ball 16 times for 78 yards and one touchdown.
In the backfield, this season is expected to be Maxwell and Hollingshead. Transfer student Jesse Jones, a sophomore, is also expected to see some playing time.
Maxwell, a brother to the graduated Tabor Maxwell, unofficially had only four rushing attempts last season for 115 yards and one touchdown. Hollingshead was given the ball eight times for 41 yards and one touchdown.
The Panthers will run quite similar to the pre-set that Brian Higbee has called for a number of years. “We’ll throw a few other wrinkles in from time to time,” Hansen said.
“Our overall outlook is pretty good for the season,” Hansen said. “We lost those eight seniors from the record-setting season, but we have eight seniors returning and most of them probably are going to be starters. Our senior leadership is still going to be strong. Our goal is to get to the playoffs and back to that state championship game.” To date, the Panthers have had marvelous success in doing just that.
Assistant staff members this season will be Brian Higbee, offensive coordinator. The defensive coordinator is Michael Strong. Andy Linares is the offensive and defensive line coach, with Derek Hansen as assistant line coach and defensive ends coach.
Pahranagat is also participating in the Touchdowns Against Cancer program sponsored by St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. Each September, high school football teams across America are pledging funds to St. Jude to fight childhood cancer with each touchdown scored. The games with Sandy Valley, Round Mountain, and Tonopah will be dedicated to that cause.