Underdog Whittell Warriors face Pahranagat Valley
There’s no other way to shape it, the Nevada state 1A semifinal football clash between Whittell and the Pahranagat Valley Panthers Friday night is a David vs. Goliath matchup.
Pahranagat has ended Whittell’s season in the playoffs in each of the last two years, once in the semifinals and once in the title game. The Panthers have lost just five games in the last 13 seasons.
From 2008 to 2015 they didn’t lose any while reeling off 105 consecutive victories and eight straight state championships. They lost in the state final last year breaking those streaks.
The Panthers are so confident about beating the Warriors and playing for another title, they have Spring Mountain listed on their http://www.maxpreps.com schedule as their next opponent. Spring Mountain plays Virginia City in the other 1A semifinal. Maxpreps is used by coaches and provides official standings for the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association.
“I guess we will just cancel our trip,” joked Warriors head coach Phillip Bryant.
The Warriors headed south Thursday, Nov. 9, in a school bus for about 10 hours and stayed overnight in Las Vegas.
Last year, the Warriors took a chartered bus. But rules apparently changed this year and Bryant said he didn’t give officials enough notice, which would have required the assumption that they beat Eureka in the first round of the playoffs.
“I don’t really know what the requirement is, but at least they’re not having us walk, so we’ll be OK,” Bryant said.
The Warriors appreciate the lodging opportunities in the United States gambling capital compared to Alamo, Nevada — Pahranagat’s home. They didn’t stay in Vegas to bet the line, which, if there were such a thing, the Panthers would be heavy favorites.
“They’re the most consistent football program in our division, actually in any division since I’ve been coaching in my 50 years or so,” Bryant said.
But the Warriors do plan to show up for the 7 p.m. kickoff. They have been putting in their game plan slowly over the past few weeks in preparation for the Panthers, who are a much bigger and “the most physical team I’ve played against,” said Warriors senior and four-year starter Corey Huber.
“They’re all pretty darn strong and they hit hard, but if we make little changes, execute a little better and don’t turn the ball over, we can win,” Huber added.
Huber has accomplished almost everything in his football career, including a league title, several individual league awards and breaking the Nevada 8-man football career rushing yardage record. There is still a spot available for a state championship.
“It would mean the world to me to beat them,” Huber said. “I didn’t get to play last year because I was hurt. But to beat them, that would be something. I would love it. I wanna win that game, and, if we do, it puts us back in state and maybe we get another shot at VC.”
Bryant and his staff plan to put the kids through a walk-through practice at a park somewhere in the Las Vegas area Friday morning before journeying another two hours to Alamo where they expect a hostile environment, similar to VC, and a physical clash, like they had against the Muckers.
“They people in the bleachers get after you vocally when we’re walking in and they even remind you what happened while you’re walking out after the game,” Bryant said. “But when you’re out there between the lines, it’s good, hard, clean football.”
On the gridiron, the Warriors like their game plan, but they liked it last year in a 46-20 loss.
“We just didn’t connect on some pass plays,” Bryant said.
Huber is excited because of the Warriors signal caller this year: Isaiah Womack, who has put up video game numbers this season. He has rushed the ball 70 times for 1,369 yards and has thrown the ball 70 times, completing 67 percent, for 769 yards.
“We’ve watched a lot film on them and with Isaiah at quarterback, he can run and pass, I think we’ll put up points,” Huber said. “Playing Pahranagat, I don’t get too many butterflies against the other teams, but it’s the best feeling in the world.”