After spotting Whittell a touchdown on their opening possession, Pahranagat Valley then proceeded to roll up 54 unanswered points and shut down the Warriors to take a 54-6 win at the 1A state semifinal game in Alamo last week.
Preston Higbee threw for six touchdowns. The young sophomore finished 10 of 15 passing for 172 yards. Brodey Maxwell caught two of Higbee’s touchdown passes; Richard Lewis caught two, and Hunter Hollingshead and Culen Highbe each caught one. Maxwell rushed for 88 yards on 12 carries.
Higbee had 38 yards on eight carries, but it was his TD passes that made the difference.
Lewis had seven tackles, and Maxwell had five tackles and an interception.
In the other semifinal, Spring Mountain staged a fourth-quarter rally while holding Virginia City scoreless for a 40-36 win over the previously unbeaten Muckers. Eagles quarterback Shawn Shumpert was 14 for 31 passing, 259 yards and three touchdowns. He was also the team’s leading rusher with 13 carries for 155 yards. Teammate Leshewn Jones rushed for 116 yards on 12 carries. Virginia City junior standout Wyatt Pieretti rushed for 275, carrying the ball 34 times, but only scored once.
PVHS and Spring Mountain will be a rematch of last year’s championship game when the Golden Eagles beat the Panthers, snapping their national record-setting 104-game win streak. It is also the fifth time in six years the two teams will play for the state title.
Whittell dominated most of the first quarter with the Panthers, but near the end of the period, Pahranagat recovered a fumbled snap from center and then scored just seconds into the beginning of the second quarter. It gave the team the spark they needed Higbee quickly connected with a wide-open Culen Highbe on a 16-yard touchdown pass. Pahranagat missed the point after leaving the scored tied at six.
On their next possession, Hunter Hollingshead caught a 13-yard pass from Higbee to give the Panthers a 14-6 lead early in the period.
After forcing a Whittell punt, Hollingshead returned the kick 70-yards down the near sideline for another score. Then after an interception by Highbe giving PVHS good field position, Lewis hauled in a short 4-yard TD pass in the corner of the end zone and Alamo had a 30-6 halftime lead.
Coach Brett Hansen said Whittell had come to play. “They always do, a well-coached big, athletic team. It just took our kids a little time to get going. Got punched in the mouth a little bit and had to respond. That fumble gave us some life and momentum to get things rolling.”
And after Alamo got the first fumble recovery, the Warriors seemed to lose their fire and became quite a bit like just eight little Indians. They never again threatened or even crossed into the red zone.
After limiting the Warriors (9-2) strong running game, as they came in with 3,249 yards including 1,369 by quarterback Isaac Womack, it all proved fairly ineffective and the Panthers defense went to work.
Later in the second quarter, coach Phil Bryant switched quarterbacks, from Womack to Trent Dingman and went with the passing game, something the Warriors are not really strong at, but had to try in order to compete. It didn’t work either as receivers were well defended on the long ball and short passes, resulting in very few yards after the catch when they did make catches.
Pahranagat (11-0) scored twice in the third quarter on the long ball, a 40-yard pass to Lewis at 9:18 and then after another interception of a Dingman pass, a 43-yard strike to Maxwell at 8:51.
Now comes the rematch this Saturday with Spring Mountain (9-2). Pahranagat beat the Eagles 74-26 in league play Oct. 13, scoring 38 unanswered points in the second half in which Spring coach Aaron Masden admitted the Panthers just physically “wore his team out.”
It will be “Remember the Alamo” for Pahranagat Valley as everyone remembers what happened in the championship game last year.
On paper this year, Pahranagat has the higher per game scoring average, 51.5 to 42.4, and in the meantime is only allowing 6.36 points per game, while Spring Mountain has been giving up 26 points per game.
PVHS will also be looking for a good performance from Higbee and running backs Hunter Hollingshead, Brodey Maxwell, and Reece Thornton.