Whittell football stopped at state, falls to Pahranagat Valley 54-28 in Div. IV State Championship | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Whittell football stopped at state, falls to Pahranagat Valley 54-28 in Div. IV State Championship

Anthony Gentile
agentile@tahoedailytribune.com
Whittell junior Dismas Womack runs the ball outside in the Warriors’ 54-28 loss to Pahranagat Valley in the Div. IV State Championship on Saturday, Nov. 21, at Dayton High.
Anthony Gentile / Tahoe Daily Tribune |

All-Time High School Football Winning Streaks

151 — De La Salle (Concord, Calif.), 1992-2003

109 — Independence (Charlotte, N.C.), 2000-07

*93 — Pahranagat Valley (Alamo, Nev.), 2008-15

*93 — Shattuck (Okla.), 2003-09

90 — Morrison (Okla.), 1989-95

*Eight-man football

Active streaks in bold

DAYTON, Nev. — The Whittell football team capped a historic 2015 season playing for a state championship. On the biggest stage, the Warriors ultimately couldn’t slow a powerhouse that made history of its own while staying atop the state.

“We’re proud of where we got and we’re happy to be here — we played our hearts out and that’s all that matters in the end,” Warriors senior Quinn Kixmiller said. “It’s a great feeling to be here, but heartbreaking to lose it here.”

Whittell lost to Pahranagat Valley (Alamo, Nev.) 54-28 in the Div. IV State Championship on Saturday, Nov. 21, at Dayton High. The Warriors came up short against the Panthers, who won their eighth state title in a row while tying a national eight-man record with their 93rd straight victory.

“We’ve had a lot of kids do a lot of good things for a long time,” Panthers coach Ken Higbee said. “It’s fun to see them make plays; they’re outstanding young men and they made enough plays to win today.”

“We’re proud of where we got and we’re happy to be here. We played our hearts out.”Quinn KixmillerWarriors senior

Whittell (11-1) fell behind the Div. IV Southern League champion Panthers on the first drive, a 9-play, 72-yard march capped by a 28-yard pass from Tabor Maxwell to Cody Williams and two-point conversion. Pahranagat Valley (12-0) ran on seven straight plays to start the game, and it was evident early on that its size would be a problem for the Warriors.

“They were big,” Kixmiller said. “We’ve played big kids before, but these kids were big, physical and they knew what they were doing.”

The Div. IV West League champion Warriors responded on the next possession, pulling within 8-6 on a 7-yard run by Dismas Womack with 5:52 left in the opening frame. Pahranagat Valley took the next drive for a score — a 1-yard run by Christian Higbee — and had a 14-6 lead after the first quarter.

“The rest of the first half was about surviving,” Warriors coach Phil Bryant said.

After a back-and-forth opening frame, the Panthers took control of the game with a dominant second quarter. Pahranagat Valley found the end zone twice and kept Whittell off the scoreboard to take a commanding 30-6 lead into halftime.

“They didn’t miss a beat on offense or defense, and we just had a couple mishaps,” Warriors senior Colin Buchholz said.

The Panthers went up 22-6 on a 5-yard run from David Ingram and two-point conversion with 9:33 left in the second quarter, and added to their advantage after trading defensive stops with Whittell. Two plays into a drive that started at the Warriors’ 34-yard line following an interception, Maxwell flicked a shovel pass to Shawn Wadsworth that went for a 22-yard score.

“They forced us to make some adjustments that we haven’t had to make in the past,” Higbee said. “You have to give those kids and that coaching staff credit for the things that they did.”

A two-point conversion run by Ingram gave Pahranagat Valley a 30-6 lead with 4:05 left in the half. And a goal line stand just before the break kept the Panthers ahead by that 24-point margin.

Late in the first half, Whittell produced its first big defensive play of the game when Caleb Moretti intercepted a Maxwell pass and returned it to the Pahranagat Valley 4-yard line. The Warriors had three plays a yard from the end zone, but Buchholz was stopped short on three straight quarterback sneaks — the last stop forced a turnover on downs and kept the Panthers well in front headed into halftime.

“It was not a good feeling,” Buchholz said. “There are some things we should have done differently; with that call, we thought we could get it in.”

The Warriors made offensive adjustments at the half to combat Pahranagat Valley’s five-man front, and struck quickly in the third quarter to make it a 10-point game. Whittell took the opening drive of the second half 64 yards in eight plays — including six power left runs from Womack.

“We changed our blocking scheme a little bit and we tried to go with a little more size and a better blocking tight end,” Bryant said. “We thought we could get them a little bit on that side.”

Womack scored on a 2-yard run, and ran in the two-point conversion with the same play call to make it 30-14 with 8:30 left in the third quarter. Just more than a minute later, Whittell was back in the end zone.

Ingram fumbled on the second play of the next drive, and Moretti fell on the loose ball to give the Warriors possession near midfield. A 47-yard pass from Buchholz to Moretti set Whittell up at the 3-yard line, and Womack found the end zone from there to cut the Panthers’ lead to 30-20 with 7:09 left in the frame.

“We gave it all we had,” Buchholz said. “We never gave up — we could have laid on our backs and let it get worse. We showed a lot of heart.”

Pahranagat Valley answered Whittell’s quick scores by grinding out a 64-yard scoring drive that featured six straight running plays. Maxwell ran for a 1-yard score to cap the march, and a successful two-point try extended the Panthers’ lead to 38-20 with 4:34 left in the third quarter.

The Warriors scored late in the third quarter to stay within 10 points entering the final frame. On fourth-and-4 from the 13-yard line, Buchholz scrambled to his right and found Aubrey Felton in the end zone. Felton made a leaping catch, and Whittell converted the two-point try to make it 38-28 with 50 seconds left in the third quarter.

Maxwell fumbled on the first play of the next drive, but recovered it to prevent a massive swing of momentum. The third quarter ended after the next snap, and Whittell felt confident trailing 38-28 entering the final frame — but that’s as close as the Warriors would get.

“If we could have got a couple more stops, then maybe we were looking at a different outcome,” Bryant said.

Pahranagat Valley extended its lead with 9:25 to play on a 1-yard pass from Maxwell to Wadsworth on fourth-and-goal, and the two-point conversion made it 46-28. The Panthers stopped Whittell on its next two drives, and scored following the second stop to put the game out of reach. Higbee’s 2-yard run with 3:13 left iced the game and secured the historic result for the Panthers.

“It’s hard to be sad because we accomplished so much that other people never got the chance to,” Buchholz said. “We got here, but we need to look into the future and win it.”

Buchholz was 14-for-20 passing with 192 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions — Moretti had 71 receiving yards on seven catches while Palmer Chaplin caught four passes for 65 yards. The Warriors ran for 121 yards led by Womack’s 69 yards and three touchdowns; leading rusher Corey Huber added 44 yards on 13 carries.

“I liked our effort and I liked our heart — we’ve come a long way in two years,” Bryant said. “We’re still on the climb. We’re not going the other way — we’re still rising and we’ll be better next year. We’ll remember that we lost here, and we’ll work that much harder to get back.”

For Pahranagat Valley, Maxwell threw for 203 yards on 10-of-23 passing with three touchdowns and an interception; the sophomore also ran for 23 yards and a score. The Panthers finished with 227 rushing yards — Higbee ran for 139 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries while Ingram had 65 yards and a score on 10 carries.

The championship defeat brought a crashing end to Whittell’s stellar 2015 campaign. The Warriors could only look on as Pahranagat Valley hoisted the Div. IV crown and tied an eight-man record for consecutive victories — the Panthers entered the game a win behind Shattuck (Okla.) for the all-time national mark.