High school football coaches generally don’t like to rely on field-goal kickers.
So Las Vegas High’s Chris Faircloth is glad he has a reliable one in Jay Mattox.
Mattox booted a 27-yard field goal with 2:41 to play to give the Wildcats (11-1) a 13-10 victory over visiting Foothill (10-2) in a Sunrise Region semifinal game on Thursday night.
“We haven’t always had good kickers,” Faircloth said. “A lot of times, we wouldn’t have been able to do that. So that was huge. The kid’s money whenever we need him.”
Las Vegas hosts Liberty (11-1) in the region title game on Nov. 19. The Patriots advanced with a 26-13 victory over Canyon Springs on Thursday.
The game was a defensive struggle from the start, and each team managed only a field goal entering the fourth quarter.
But Las Vegas’ Farrell Victor scored on a 2-yard run on the second play of the fourth quarter, and Mattox made the extra point to give Las Vegas a 10-3 lead.
Foothill answered with its own score, driving 63 yards on six plays capped by a 3-yard touchdown run by Miles Killebrew with 9:12 to go.
Then it was time for the defenses to shine. After the two touchdowns, the teams combined to allow just one first down until Las Vegas’ decisive drive.
“We have a very good defensive front,” Faircloth said. “At this time of the year, the best defenses are the ones that are going to keep going on. They’re the ones that decide the game at this time.”
The Wildcats’ defense made life difficult for Foothill quarterback Parker Riggin, sacking the senior five times and pressuring him on numerous other plays.
“Their front was very tough,” Foothill coach Martin Redmond said. “They put a lot of pressure on our quarterback. It was tough for us to do anything deep in the passing game. Their defense is very good, and they played very physical.”
Las Vegas limited the Falcons to 133 yards of offense. The running game never got going for Foothill, as it finished with negative-11 yards.
But Foothill’s defense nearly matched the Las Vegas output. The Falcons harassed Las Vegas quarterback Hasaan Henderson, sacking him three times in the first half.
Henderson also was intercepted by cornerback Darius Gates with 52.6 seconds to go in the half. The Wildcats had driven to the Foothill 19 and already were in Mattox’s range, but Henderson was picked off trying to hit Cameron Rogers in the end zone.
After that, Las Vegas nearly abandoned the pass, attempting just three passes in the second half.
“We got very, very conservative,” Faircloth said. “We threw the pick at the end of the first half, and we decided we were going to grind it out and let our defense play defense.”
They also let junior running back Victor carry the load. He finished with 175 yards on 32 carries, with 19 of those carries coming in the second half.
“Farrell’s tough. Farrell probably ran as hard as he’s ever ran as a Wildcat,” Faircloth said. “He got the tough yards. He wasn’t looking to bounce it out. He got everything that we needed.”
Victor had 32 yards on six carries on the key drive to set up Mattox’s winning field goal.
Mattox also had a 20-yard field goal in the first quarter.
“Our defense played hard all year, and tonight was no different,” Redmond said. “They played their butts off, and I’m very proud of how they played. It’s one of the best defenses we’ve ever had come through Foothill.”
Las Vegas returns to the Sunrise Region title game for the 10th time in 11 seasons. Foothill ended the Wildcats’ streak of nine straight by eliminating Las Vegas in the first round of the playoffs last season.
“We were in so many in a row, and all of a sudden we were out in the first round,” Faircloth said. “It’s awesome to be back in the region title game. I couldn’t be more proud of our kids to fight through that game to get us there.”