After 10 consecutive seasons, the Pahranagat Valley Panthers will not be in the Class 1A state championship game this season.
Pahranagat lost 42-36 at Tonopah last week in the first round of the playoffs.
The Panthers had been in the state finals every year since 2008 and had won nine times.
Pahranagat was a young team this year, 18 freshmen and sophomores, only five seniors, four linemen, and wide receiver Stockton Maxwell.
By comparison, Tonopah was a veteran team with 12 seniors.
Panther coach Brett Hansen said, “Youth can be a good thing, but not so much when things come around where experience is needed. For rural schools in general, having a lot of young kids is the norm and they have to step up to help build your program. We have had a long history of that, and likely will again. Experience definitely does help, especially when you get to the postseason and dealing with all the emotions and the different intensity found there.”
An injured ankle that took John Hansen out of the game at one point was also a blow to the Panthers’ hopes. “Injuries kind of bit us this year with different ones, and not being very deep at some positions was a factor,” coach Hansen said.
The Muckers played stronger in the second quarter, scoring twice to take a two-score lead.
Hansen said, “They didn’t hurt themselves by making any mistakes. They had one fumble, but otherwise did really well taking care of the ball and not giving us opportunities that we normally get to capitalize on. Hard to come back on a team that takes good care of the ball and puts plays together.”
In the second half, the teams played fairly evenly, Hansen thought. “We challenged our kids at halftime and they came out and responded and tried to fight back, but Tonopah was able to maintain their two-touchdown lead.”
Pahranagat opened the scoring early in the first quarter. However, Brandon Scobey scored a 75-yard touchdown run for the Muckers.
Pahranagat then scored again for a 14-6 lead, but Tonopah’s Koby Bunker scored on an eight-yard run at 1:12, leaving Alamo with just a 14-12 first- quarter lead.
The Panthers were driving for a third score in the second quarter, but Preston Higbee was intercepted in the end zone. The Muckers then methodically drove down to the two-yard line where Otteson got the first of his two rushing touchdowns at 4:50.
After Pahranagat turned the ball over on downs, Tonopah scored a second touchdown with under a minute remaining to take a 28-14 halftime lead.
In the second half, Tonopah simply maintained their two-score lead.
Coach Duffy Otteson said it was not only the number of senior players that he has on the team this year that helped account for the win over Pahranagat Valley, but also “preparation, hard work, and watching a lot of game film to stop their best plays. And we did a good job of that. Holding Alamo to 36 points is not easy to do.”
Pahranagat Valley had a 21-game win streak over Tonopah since 2004, prior to this game, and the Panthers had scored 40 or more points, 19 times.
Higbee was 11-for-19 passing for 184 yards, no touchdowns, and one interception. He also ran the ball 13 times for 80 yards and one touchdown.
Jesse Jones had 15 carries for 97 yards, four touchdowns, and three receptions for 35 yards. Maxwell had six catches for 102 yards. Paul Lewis caught two passes for 47 yards.
On defense, Lewis had seven tackles, and the Leavitt brothers, Tayt and Jaren, both had six.
For Tonopah, quarterback Dillon Otteson was 15-for-23 passing, 169 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. He also rushed 10 times for 100 yards and two touchdowns.
Senior running back Brandon Scobey rushed 18 times for 140 yards and two touchdowns.
The Muckers will face Eureka (10-1) this Saturday at White Pine High School in Ely. Eureka dismantled Excel Christian 48-6 in their first round game.
Spring Mountain (9-1), a big 70-10 winner over Mineral County, will face Virginia City (10-1) Saturday at Mineral County High School in Hawthorne. It marks the third consecutive year the two have played in the semifinals. Spring Mountain has won the previous two times on the last play of the game.