When most people think about tradition in sports, they think about long-standing success.
And even though McQueen’s football team has been competing for less than 30 years, the Lancers certainly have become a traditional power.
McQueen will be looking for its sixth state football championship since 1990 when the Lancers (13-0) take on Palo Verde (14-0) at 12:07 p.m. Saturday at UNR’s Mackay Stadium.
“At McQueen we only have three goals, and that’s division, regional and state champs,” Lancers coach Ken Dalton said. “We just won the regional championship for the 12th time. And this is our 11th time playing in the state championship since 1990.
“Our kids expect to be here. That great tradition of winning really is part of our success.”
Dalton has built the tradition at McQueen by starting up front, and this year’s team is no exception. The Lancers feature powerful lines on both sides of the ball.
The offensive line averages 6 feet 3 inches and 240 pounds, led by 6-3, 303-pound guard Karrington Armstrong.
“They’re physical, aggressive, big,” said Palo Verde senior guard/linebacker David Castro. “We’ve seen a few teams that are the same size, but they’re going to be pretty tough.
“I’m really looking forward to this game to go out and hit these guys, because they’re going to hit back just as hard.”
The line has opened holes for senior fullback Tyler York, who has rushed for 1,769 yards and 31 touchdowns this season. York has rushed for 570 yards and nine TDs in three postseason games.
“They kind of rely on York to get them going,” Palo Verde coach Darwin Rost said. “(Dalton is) definitely an old-school coach like I am.”
Senior Anthony Martinez has added 938 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground for McQueen.
But the Lancers also have had an effective passing game. Senior quarterback Anthony Stolo has passed for 1,698 yards and 23 touchdowns while being intercepted twice.
Wide receiver Kyle Van Noy, a 6-4, 209-pound senior who doubles as a defensive end, has 35 catches for 731 yards and 13 touchdowns.
“Once he gets it going (on the ground), it definitely opens up Van Noy, because people start sneaking up to try to stop Martinez and York,” Rost said. “We’re going to make sure we know where Van Noy is on the field.”
McQueen’s defense has been superb, allowing an average of 187.2 yards per game and 78 points all season. In three postseason games, the Lancers have allowed a total of 147 rushing yards.
“Their front seven kids are pretty dang good,” Rost said. “Somehow we’ve got to try to get into that secondary with our speed. That’s easier said than done.”
McQueen returns 16 players from last year’s team that lost 38-17 to Bishop Gorman in the state final.
“These kids have played together for a long time,” Dalton said. “And they are a very determined bunch. That’s why we’re where we are.”
The Panthers are making their second state championship appearance. They won the title in 2004.
“We’ve only been there once, but we’re hungry,” Castro said. “We have a lot of heart, and we’re going to go as much as we can. This is something all of us want more than air.”