By. Dave Maxwell
Everyone knew it would happen someday. The only question was when. The day finally came last Saturday when Pahranagat Valley lost 68-46 to Spring Mountain in the 1A state football championship in Las Vegas, ending their 104-game national record eight-man winning streak.
So the Pahranagat players who have for long experienced the thrill of victory, now experienced the agony of defeat. “A loss should hurt,” said associate head coach Brett Hansen. “If it doesn’t, then you’re not doing something right.”
It was a see-saw battle the first half, Spring Mountain scored first, Pahranagat responded. The Eagles scored again, the Panthers responded, back and forth like that, with PVHS finally taking a 30-27 halftime lead after they blocked a field goal attempt as the half ended.
Spring Mountain’s game plan was obviously going to be the same in the second half as it had been in the first, and it was. Go with the short pass under the zone or man-to-man coverage, whichever presented itself. The Eagles running the ball was a surprise anytime it happened. Only senior quarterback Eric Brooks and Juan Zarate ran the ball, Brooks 12 times and Zarate just five.
Brooks admittedly had the finest game of his career, passing for 499 yards and leading 10 touchdown drives. Pahranagat just seemed unable to stop his short passing game. Brooks also ran for 96 yards and two scores. Tyriq McKinney had 10 catches for 203 yards and five touchdowns and Damariyae Royal had 11 catches for 131 yards and one touchdown. LaShawn Young had five receptions for 90 yards and two touchdowns. His 61-yard catch and touchdown run was the game clincher in the fourth quarter.
Brooks said, “We found a couple of zone beaters that coach threw in there. Once we beat their zones, they switched up to man. That was a big mistake.”
On the other side, PVHS was doing their best to keep up. Tabor Maxwell had four touchdown drives, two in the third quarter. He finished with 273 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He also ran for 122 yards and three scores.
The Panthers long streak of athletic successes in all major sports has united the community. Hansen noted, “The community sure rallies around these kids.”
And Aaron Masden, the gracious coach of the Spring Mountain Eagles, said it was Pahranagat, along with 4A Bishop Gorman, that have brought national recognition to the state. “If it wasn’t for Ken (head coach Ken Higbee) pushing our kids to improve our schemes and our kids to get better and compete…we wouldn’t be here. No way.”
Higbee himself said, “Win or lose I don’t feel any differently about our kids. Love the hard work, love everything about them. Got to give coach Masden and Spring Mountain credit. Kids came, had a game plan and executed it to perfection.”
This year was a another great season for Panther football regardless of the outcome. Not only did they set a national record for most consecutive wins by an eight man team in the over century long history of high school football, and third longest in the nation, but they also became the first eight man team to ever reach and surpass 100 consecutive wins. A memory the players and coaches will carry for the rest of their lives and the record books will also.
A line from the 1974 Jimmy Buffett song is helpful in such times. “Come Monday, it will be alright.” Basketball and wrestling practice starts then.