DIVISION IV FOOTBALL: Panthers put streak on line againt Golden Eagles

The longest win streak in the nation — 68 games — is still in tact for the Pahranagat Valley football team following a perfect regular season and start to the playoffs.

The streak will be put to the test one last time this season, when the Panthers (11-0) play Spring Mountain (7-2) in the Division IV state championship at 1 p.m. Saturday at Indian Springs High.

Spring Mountain coach Aaron Masden said his team is “absolutely” aware of the streak, and is using it as motivation.

“They’re the big boys on the block,” Masden said. “We’ve been scheming and talking about what we need to do to compete with a team at that level. Pahranagat deserves a lot of credit, but being the big boys on the block, you have lots of people gunning for you.”

With both teams playing in the Southern League, and the Golden Eagles giving Pahranagat Valley its closest games in recent years, the matchup has naturally turned into a rivalry. However, Masden would prefer a different portrayal.

“We can’t really call it a rivalry until we win some games against them,” Masden said.

The teams met in last year’s state championship, with Pahranagat Valley winning 26-14, after being tied midway through the third quarter.

Pahranagat Valley, which is seeking its sixth consecutive state championship, has become accustomed to dominating its opponents, but coach Ken Higbee said the Panthers don’t spotlight the streak.

“We haven’t put much thought into what we did in the past,” Higbee said. “The winning streak is what we talk about after the season. It’s secondary. I think we’ve prepared the kids for the task at hand. Our kids have bought into that concept where no opponent is better than the next. If you prepare fundamentally, good things will happen to you.”

This year, Pahranagat Valley holds an average victory margin of 44.5 points. On Sept. 27, the Panthers beat the Golden Eagles 54-22 at home.

“That was only our second game experience,” Masden said. “We’ll have nine games under our belt and I’m expecting our ability to understand blocking techniques, routes and schemes to be a lot better. We get better in the playoffs.”

Spring Mountain is a youth camp that rehabilitates students in the Clark County Department of Juvenile Justice Services program, which means every year there’s a fresh group of players.

“Most kids have not played football before,” Masden said. “Their level of growth and knowledge of the game improves over the course of the season. We’re going to do the same things we’ve been doing all season, just a little better.”

Pahranagat Valley only returned two offensive starters, so the Panthers had to make some adjustments of their own.

Freshman quarterback Tabor Maxwell has thrown for 2,417 yards and 38 touchdowns, but Higbee credits offensive lineman Jake Carter for making the Panthers’ transition smoother.

“He doesn’t get enough credit,” Higbee said. “Everything we do revolves around Jake. He creates the holes along with the offensive line. It enables Wade (Leavitt) and Tabor to do the things they’ve done.”

The Panthers will be making their 11th state title game appearance in the last 12 seasons.

“The game will come down to turnovers and execution,” Higbee said. “I know these kids will be prepared to execute a game plan we’ve put in. A win would mean that our kids finished what they started. If we lose, the sun will come up the next day. We will win with class or lose with class.”

Spring Mountain, meanwhile, is looking for its first state crown.

“It would mean a lot to our school and the youth camp,” Masden said. “There are a lot of people behind these boys, who are trying to see them succeed. If we’re fortunate enough (to win), that would really validate what we teach and it would be something they can take with them in life. They can apply those skills in whatever they do.”

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