Sparked by one of the best passing attacks and backfields in eight-man football, Pahranagat Valley’s four-headed beast rose up and defeated the Whittell Warriors 46-20 in the Class 1A state semifinals last Friday night in Alamo.
The Panthers play Spring Mountain in the 1A title game, scheduled for 1 p.m. tomorrow at Clark High School in Las Vegas. Pahranagat Valley beat the Golden Eagles 36-18 during the regular season. It is the fourth time in five years the teams have met in the state finals.
Pahranagat’s formidable senior backfield are three of the four heads. Quarterback Tabor Maxwell and running backs Christian Higbee and Ike Taylor combined for 250 yards on 40 carries against Whittell. Higbee ran for 114 yards on 16 carries. Taylor had 67 yards on 14 carries, six pass receptions, as well as a four-yard touchdown run and a 36-yard touchdown pass. Maxwell had four touchdown passes and ran for another. He completed 18 of 25 passes for 225 yards, and 69 yards on 10 carries.
Culen Highbe caught two touchdown passes, of 11 and 18 yards.
The Panthers’ unsung defense is the other head of the beast. It limited Whittell (9-2) to only 374 total yards, 279 of it by quarterback Dismas Womack, and held their 60.9 points per game average to only 20 points.
“Every year is the same,” Panthers associate head coach Brett Hansen said. “Every team starts out the same. For us, it all comes down to fundamentals. It comes down to being able to tackle … Being able to block. That’s always it.”
Whittell coach Phil Bryant said coming into the game they knew what Pahranagat was going to be like, and they needed to stop the Panthers big plays, but couldn’t do it. “They’re just better than us. We actually played pretty well I think just not consistently.” he said.
The Warriors knew they simply could not get beat on Maxwell’s deep passes, but they did at least four times including a 36-yard and 37-yard touchdown in the first half.
“I don’t think it ever gets old, winning like this,” Maxwell said. “We just come out and play every game like it’s a normal game. We don’t worry about that certain win. Right now, we’re 1-0.”
Womack was the clear leader of the team this season. He had rushed for 1,322 yards and passed for 1,095. He got his yards against the Panthers, 279 on 17 carries, two long touchdown runs of 78 and 59 yards, but coach Bryant said he hurt his throwing arm on their second offensive play of the game, “and could not raise his shoulder up much to throw. We had wanted to throw more, but that really limited us.”
His passes were mostly just lobs, only 3-for-12 and 16 yards. Otherwise his long pass attempts were overthrown.
Sophomore Dalton Warswick (965 yards), was held to just 47 yards on eight carries. Junior Corey Huber, the other mainstay of the Warriors, did not play, apparently due to an ankle injury.
Pahranagat (11-0) dominated play both ways, amassing 490 total yards to 324 for Whittell.
Hansen said he knows Spring Mountain will be ready and expects a tough matchup. “Spring (Mountain) is always tough, They’re always athletic. We will have to come ready to play.”