DIVISION IV: Eagles eye upset, first state title

Roster turnover is the norm for Spring Mountain football coach Aaron Masden.

At the end of each season, his depth chart is wiped clean and replaced with a crop of widely unknown talent.

Guiding a team that is part of the Clark County Department of Juvenile Services programs, Masden has no choice.

“We have a brand new team every year,” said Masden, whose players are juvenile delinquents that are on the path to reform. “We really believe and preach to our boys each year that if they work hard enough, if they want to dedicate themselves to it and make sacrifices, they can achieve a level of success and get themselves into a position to play for a championship.”

That moment is now.

Spring Mountain (9-1) will meet Pahranagat Valley (10-0) in the Division IV state final at noon Saturday at Bishop Gorman High School. The eight-man squad seeks the program’s first state championship.

“They’ve stepped up to the challenge,” said Masden, in his fifth year with the Eagles. “The biggest thing that I’ve always said is that if they care enough late in the season, we can be dangerous. These guys really care. They want to achieve that success.”

To win the crown, however, Spring Mountain must do something no team has done for almost five years — beat Pahranagat Valley.

In their regular-season game Sept. 14, the Panthers blitzed the Eagles 62-28, one of 56 straight wins for Pahranagat Valley.

The Panthers racked up 413 yards of offense. Senior quarterback Austin Poulsen had four rushing touchdowns.

“We’re looking back at the film and things that we made mistakes and errors — whether mental errors or assignment errors — just to continue to learn and show that we have seen improvement in the last couple of weeks,” said Masden, also a probation officer at the youth camp. “We’ve been brushing over that and saying ‘these are the mistakes we made, this is what we can’t do Saturday.’ ”

The Eagles’ plan to combat Pahranagat Valley’s offense with quarterback Marcus Thomas, who has thrown for 1,283 yards, 23 touchdowns and only two interceptions. The  junior also has rushed for 1,303 yards and 19 touchdowns.

“He’s very dangerous with his intelligence and understanding of the schemes and what we’re doing,” Masden said. “There’s been plenty of times when I’m ready to call a play, and he’s calling it and telling me what I’m about to say. It’s kind of scary. He’s in my head in the sense of play calling, but that’s how much he’s learned.”

Masden said he allows Thomas to throw or run at will, but the Eagles also have a plethora of other offensive weapons, including Christopher Munro (27 receptions, 429 yards, six TDs), Dwayne James (28 receptions, 418 yards, eight TDs), and running backs Bruce Travis-Collins (630 rushing yards, 14 TDs) and Ashley Christmas (520 rushing yards, six TDs).

“Our boys are ready to step up and ready for the challenge they’ve been looking for,” Masden said. “It’s something we’ve been talking about since after our regular-season game with them. We know that we are going to be a different football team and a better football team in November than we were in September.”