In the Class 1A football playoffs last year, Pahranagat Valley and Spring Mountain were again the dominant powers as they have been the past five years.
The Panthers went undefeated in the regular season, blanked Tonopah in the first round of the playoffs, and blasted Whittell in the semifinals as quarterback Preston Higbee threw six touchdown passes. Then they built up a 38-0 halftime lead in the finals over defending champion Spring Mountain to regain the 1A state title in resounding fashion.
It was the ninth title in the past 10 years for the Panthers. Their overall record, beginning in 2008, is an incredible 116-1.
So what does 2018 hold in store for second-year head coach Brett Hansen and his staff?
For one thing, it appears PVHS will have a junior backfield this season. Quarterback Preston Higbee and main running backs John Hansen, Reece Thornton, and Jesse Jones are all juniors. It’s a very good prospect for the team and its future.
Higbee was named Most Valuable Offensive player in the league in 2017.
Not including playoff stats, he was 83 of 126 attempts, 1,583 yards, 40 touchdowns, and five interceptions.
He was also the top rusher on the team with 797 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Jones had 29 carries for 298 yards and two touchdowns. Thornton, who was injured for part of the season, had 14 carries, 164 yards, and one touchdown. Hansen had 12 carries for 113 yards and two touchdowns.
In the state championship game, it was Thornton, a beefy but speedy sophomore, who rumbled his way to 132 yards and one touchdown on 12 carries.
The Panthers graduated eight players off last year’s championship team, including League MVP Richard Lewis.
Hansen said, “As far as returning players who started or had significant playing time on offense, there is Higbee, Stockton, Maxwell at tight end, and Thornton at running back. On defense, it will be the same three.”
As for the idea of reloading, he said, “There is an apparent positive energy and culture in Alamo of the ability to develop younger players to step into a given role when they get to high school. You’ve got to step up, and those kids usually do, and have, answered the bell. It’s a credit to the kids to take whatever responsibility they are given. We’ve got kids excited to be here.”
Pahranagat Valley had 30 players turn out for the team this year including 12 from a large freshman class. “The younger boys were successful at the middle school level,” Hansen said, “and there are some big boys in that group.”
Hansen said the defense, “will use the same 3-3-2 look and offensively will look the same as we did last year, a pro-style offense and the Oregon uptempo game, as the kids are able to understand and execute that concept.”
Looking at the new alignment of the 1A South League, Hansen said, “You never know what Spring Mountain is going to have, always so many new players. But the coaches there do a good job with the players. Beaver Dam had 18 boys come out for practice. Last year they only had 10 on the team. Sandy Valley is not fielding a team this year, so there is an open date on our schedule [Oct. 12], and I don’t know yet what we will do with that.”
Green Valley of Henderson is a new addition to the South League. Another new addition is Liberty Baptist in Las Vegas, but neither are playing football yet.
Pahranagat’s first game is the traditional meeting with Wells, to be held this year in Alamo, Aug. 24.
PVHS has played Wells every year since 2004, with the exception of 2010, and the Panthers have won the last 12 games.