Seven returning lettermen including 2014 All-League selections Tabor Maxwell, Shawn Wadsworth and Christian Higbee open the 2015 football season for Pahranagat Valley tonight at Wells.
Maxwell completed 68.3 percent of his passes last season for a school record 2,625 yards, 38 touchdowns and just two interceptions. Wadsworth, the team’s best receiver, also holds a school record with 60 receptions for 1,069 yards and 17 scores. The pair, who have been playing together since the second grade, hooked up for four touchdowns in the state championship game last November.
Senior Cody Stirling, who finished with 33 tackles a season ago, will be one of the top returning players on defense for the Panthers.
Head coach Ken Higbee, in his 19th season, said, “We have many holes to fill and are looking for our kids to step up and get the job done.”
In last week’s five-team jamboree at Panther Alumni Stadium, the first one on Alamo’s home field since 1988, Higbee was pleased with how his players are executing this early in the season. “We still have a long ways to go, but I thought our kids did some good things after reviewing the film. It was an outstanding day having the other teams there. It was a lot of fun for all the players getting to hit somebody else. It all went off without a hitch, and three regular season officials from Tonopah volunteered their time to come over and officiate games on the varsity field.”
At the same time, Alamo’s second unit put in work on the north end practice field, as one team not playing on the varsity field, would rotate playing other teams’ second unit kids. Higbee said, “Looking at things, that may have been the best part of the day. Our second unit got four games (in 10-minute segments, both offense and defense) against other teams, and that’s invaluable.”
Afterwards, the Panthers hosted a barbeque for players, coaches and officials.
Wells and PVHS have a long tradition of playing each other the opening game of the year. They have done so 10 of the last 11 years.
“Another opportunity to play against a Steve Rodriguez team, whose teams are always fundamentally sound and play the game the right way. You don’t have to worry about his kids doing anything inappropriate,” Higbee said.
Wells beat the Panthers 18-6 in the 2004 state championship game, but since then PVHS has won all the games and hold a 10-1 series advantage, outscoring the Leopards 458-88 and limiting Wells to no more than three touchdowns in any game.
Wells was 5-4 last season and missed the northern division east league playoffs behind Eureka and Carlin.
The Leopards graduated just four off a 23-man roster last season. But a big loss was the transfer of double threat running back/quarterback senior Wyatt Gibbs to Eureka. Last season for Wells, Gibbs rushed for 1,155 yards on 202 carries (5.5 average) and 18 touchdowns. However, PVHS held him to just 43 yards in a 62-8 win. Wells’ running game will be sorely affected by his loss as he accounted for over half of the Leopards 2,066 total offensive yards.
The Panthers take the week off after the Wells game and prepare for a trip to Ojai (O-Hi), Calif., about 20 miles north of Ventura, for a non-league game with the Thacher Toads. Thacher (12-1) was the California Division II 8-man runner up last year. Game time is at 4 p.m. Sept. 11.
Surprisingly PVHS and Thacher do have one common opponent: Joshua Springs, Calif.. Thacher split with the Lightening in 2011 and 2012, while the Panthers have two wins over Joshua Springs in 2010 and 2011.
The last of Alamo’s three opening away games is at Tonopah Sept. 18, and they begin the home season hosting Beaver Dam, Sept. 25.