Dave Maxwell Once a corn field, Panther Alumni Stadium in Alamo is home to the Pahranagat Valley Panthers football team. The field was expanded to 100 yards, more natural grass installed and the stadium enlarged and improved in 2012.

Dave Maxwell
Once a corn field, Panther Alumni Stadium in Alamo is home to the Pahranagat Valley Panthers football team. The field was expanded to 100 yards, more natural grass installed and the stadium enlarged and improved in 2012.

Expanded and remodeled in 2012, the football field at Pahranagat Valley High School in Alamo doesn’t have any resemblance at all to the field that was first used by the Panthers when they reinstated football in 1973.

Today the field is all natural grass, 100-yards long, with another field north of the end zone which is many times used as a practice field. It has a new concrete stadium with wooden bench seats and a few reserved stadium seats. Taller and better lighting standards were brought in from Las Vegas for night games, the former dirt track that once surrounded the field has been removed, and the cheerleaders now have a grass section to do their cheers on, instead of a dirt area, that could get muddy and waterlogged. The fence at the upper level of the top row of the stadium is lined with 18 banners of the Panthers state football championships.

A spacious concession stand, half of a one-time modular building, is at the south end. Hamburgers and hotdogs can be barbequed as you wait.

All in all, it is one of the better looking stadiums in Division IV, the small schools, around the state. Admittedly, Indian Springs does have a very nice artificial field and grandstands too, but the press box is smaller, and the concession stand is considerably further away.

For those who remember, it is a far, far cry from what was once a corn field and later the alfalfa hay field former coach Vaughn Higbee first used as a place to play.

A 1964 graduate of PVHS, Higbee returned to the school as a teacher and decided to restart the football program that had been discontinued during World War II.

In the fall of 1973, only about 12 boys turned out for practice. Uniforms and equipment were purchased, Higbee said. “But we had no helmets. So we practiced for a while without them, basically doing flag football.”

When the helmets did arrive, they had no facemasks, and although the team tried to practice that way, it really didn’t work and a few injuries occurred. Finally, just before the first game, the facemasks finally arrived.

As a kid growing up in Alamo, the place where Higbee wanted to have the football boys play, had at one time been a cornfield owned by Roland Cox who used it to grow feed for his chickens. The Cox’s had a chicken and egg business and the large coup was pretty much in the same location as the present high school building. Joe Sharp recalled, “There really was not much here. Roland worked hard to try to make anything grow there because of too much alkali.”

After Cox passed away, the school bought the property and FFA teacher Ed Hansen began an alfalfa growing operation there.

Vern Holaday, who played in 1976, said, “They just mowed down the field, threw some grass seed out there and tried to get it to grow. But there were still clumps of alfalfa coming up. Made it a little rough for a couple of years. You could trip over them, for sure.”

The old field had rocks in it, too, Holaday remembers. “Every time you’d find a rock, you’d have to throw it over in the direction of the Davis’ place (over the fence to the east). They were of decent size, too. You didn’t want them there in the football field. It hurt when you fell on them. I remember hitting one with my knee, and boy I went back and dug that one out quick and threw it over the fence.”

It was just an 80-yard field and stayed that way until present coach Ken Higbee enlarged the field and the stadium.

Holaday said in the first couple of years, “We had a Mexico-born soccer player, Arturo Delturo, and he could kick field goals. He could put the kickoff through the goalposts, and he kicked most of our extra points.”

Former coach Dave Thomas said in the first year, because it had once been a corn field, “We had the boys line up along one end and we’d walk the field pulling up weeds, rocks and occasionally some of the old remaining corn stalks. The stalks could be up to an inch-and-a-half in diameter. Those could hurt. We did that every night for a couple of weeks in that first season and for much of that first season or two. Just not to overuse the field, we would have our practices at the church ball field.” Middle School players still do.

Today, as Vaughn Higbee looks at the field, the one his own son Ken initiated with the help of many others, he said, “I think it’s fantastic. I never dreamed when we were building that old field there would ever be anything like this, or that the program in Alamo would be anything like it is today.”

In that first year, aside from teaching the players what to do, the fundamentals of the game, Higbee said he also had to teach the parents and spectators how to watch. Call it Football 101.

Because it was all so completely new to most of the spectators in Alamo, Higbee said he held classes for parents and fans to teach them how to watch a game. “People would come to one of the school classrooms and I had some handouts explaining the rules of the game, and then I would use the chalkboard to explain the X’s and O’s of the game.”

Another point Higbee takes great pleasure in is, since Alamo did not play football when he was a student there, he said, “After college, the first high school game I ever saw, I coached.”