A sixth straight region title might be enough to satisfy some football teams.
That’s not the case for Las Vegas High, which enters this season not so much celebrating its sixth straight Sunrise Region crown as bemoaning its state semifinal loss to Palo Verde.
Every year, the Wildcats have their sights set on playing in the state championship game, and they’re willing to do what it takes to make the goal a reality this year.
“Last year’s ending was not acceptable,” said Wildcats coach Chris Faircloth, whose team posted a 12-2 overall record and swept its six Northeast League games last season. Las Vegas’ season ended with a 42-21 loss to Palo Verde. “We deserved what we got in the end. We didn’t prepare hard enough during the season.
“There’s always a fear of failure here. Sometimes I’m not sure the victories are enjoyed the way they should be. A loss around here is fricking horrendous.”
Not that Las Vegas has had much practice dealing with losses. The Wildcats are 59-13 under Faircloth and have the makings of another championship-caliber team this year.
Las Vegas returns standout wide receivers Marquan Major and Saveon Butler and sophomore running back Farrell Victor, who had a breakout freshman season.
Major caught 58 passes for 762 yards and five touchdowns last season, though he likely will miss the opener after injuring his collarbone. Butler made 24 receptions for 322 yards and seven scores.
Victor, who didn’t start the season with the varsity, still managed 60 carries for 393 yards and four touchdowns as a freshman.
That trio, along with a few untested underclassmen, is expected to help the Wildcats make up for the loss of leading passer Emir Lopez (2,743 yards, 28 TDs), rusher Reggie Bullock (172 carries, 1,647 yards, 23 TDs) and receiver Aaron Franklin (63 receptions, 986 yards, 8 TDs).
“We run better than we did last year as far as team speed,” Faircloth said. “We have some other guys who have the potential to be really good.”
The skill positions, though, aren’t the only places where the Wildcats expect to have an edge over their competition.
“The offensive line and linebackers are our strengths,” senior offensive lineman Dallin Van Buskirk said.
Las Vegas also hopes to show improvement on defense. The Wildcats were involved in some wild shootouts last year, twice winning games in which they allowed 40 or more points. For the season, opponents averaged more than 26 points per game against Las Vegas.
“Everybody has been working hard, and we’ve done a good job, but we can do better,” senior defensive back Ronald McCullogh said. “There are always areas we can work on. Everybody has to be on the same page and be willing to do what it takes to win.”
Faircloth said he expects Canyon Springs and Desert Pines to contend for the Northeast crown and understands his team is everyone else’s biggest game of the year.
“I don’t think the coaching staff or the kids allow themselves to think they’re going to be any less than they were the year before,” he said. “They understand they need to be better than we were.
“Some good things can happen with this group as long as we all keep our eye on the prize.”