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Pahranagat Valley junior Reece Thornton rushed for 131 yards and three touchdowns, leading the Panthers to a 72-20 win over Independence of Elko, in their first game of the season.

At Elko, the defending state champion Pahranagat Valley Panthers opened their 2018 football season with a 72-20 win over the Independence Colts.

Reece Thornton rushed for 131 yards and three touchdowns on seven carries.

Coach Brett Hansen said, “It definitely was not as sharp a game as we’d like, but they were big, strong kids. They came and hit. It was a physical game.”

Most players on Independence (a school much like Spring Mountain, with new players every year) have never played together before, if they’ve ever played at all.

The experience and speed of the Panther players was obvious from the outset.

Jesse Jones returned the opening kick 85 yards for a touchdown. “He went right up the middle,” Hansen said. Later, John Hansen had a 60-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter for the Panthers.

It was the first half where Pahranagat showed their power, so much that the 35-point rule for a running clock was used after the first quarter.

Thornton had TD runs of five, 15, and 38 yards for the Panthers (1-0), who scored 36 points in the first quarter.

Preston Higbee, Jaren Leavitt, and John Hansen added rushing touchdowns for PVHS.

In addition, quarterback Higbee completed five of 10 passes for 120 yards. He threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Stockton Maxwell and a 35-yard scoring pass to Nick Acosta.

In the second half, Pahranagat used most of their second-string players, who surrendered the 20 points to the Colts (0-2).

This week, the Panthers had a one-week break that is mandated at least once in the schedule by the NIAA.

“We took Labor Day off,” said Hansen, “and get back to practice the remainder of the week and into next week.”

The boys are preparing for the first of back-to-back home games with Beaver Dam (1-0), Sept. 14, and Beatty, Sept. 21.

Pahranagat has never lost to Beaver Dam since they joined the league in 2014.

In fact, in the 2014 game, the Panthers recorded their second-highest single game total in school history, 98 points.

The PVHS record, and current eight-man team national record, is 128 points in 2008.