Whittell football takes aim at Pahranagat Valley — and its winning streak — in 1A State semifinals
1A State football semifinals
Friday, Nov. 11
(2S) Spring Mountain at (1W) Virginia City, noon
(2W) Whittell at (1S) Pahranagat Valley, 6 p.m.
All winning streaks have to come to an end sometime. It’s a simple but important notion for the Whittell football team to keep in mind in advance of its 1A State semifinal contest Friday, Nov. 11.
The West League second seed Warriors (9-1) travel to play Southern League Champion Pahranagat Valley (Alamo, Nev.) (10-0) in the eight-man state semis Friday at 6 p.m. The eight-time defending state champion Panthers have won 103 straight games, the longest active winning streak in the nation.
“Every streak that has ever been has ended at some point,” Warriors coach Phil Bryant said. “They all lose at some point — and generally the loss is to someone no one expected them to lose to.”
West League champion Virginia City (10-0) hosts Southern second seed Spring Mountain (Las Vegas) (7-2) in the other state semifinal Friday at noon. Friday’s winners meet for the championship Saturday, Nov. 19, at Clark High in Las Vegas.
Whittell is painfully familiar with the Panthers and their undefeated run that dates back to the 2008 season. Pahranagat Valley’s 93rd victory in a row — tying a national eight-man record — came over the Warriors by a 54-28 margin in the Div. IV State championship game.
“If you’re going to win state, you have to play them sometime,” Bryant said. “The ‘when’ is immaterial. We like our chances, we like our team, and I like their attitudes.”
The biggest obstacle Whittell has to overcome in order to snap the Panthers’ streak is the size discrepancy between the teams. The Panthers are bigger at nearly every position — especially in the trenches.
“We have some work to do to face what they do offensively and defensively, but so do they,” Bryant said. “I don’t think they’ve played anybody that can do the things our backs do in combination. We present some problems there.”
Offensively for the Warriors, it starts with senior Dismas Womack. Whittell’s quarterback has thrown for 1,095 yards, passed for 1,322 yards and accounted for 39 total touchdowns this season, and his speed and elusiveness have typically been too much for opposing defenses to handle.
Whittell’s rushing attack also features the bruising running of sophomore Dalton Warswick (965 yards, 13 touchdowns) and the speed of junior Corey Huber (714, 10). The Warriors’ offense averaging 60 points per game is tasked with moving the ball against a Panthers defense that typically sits at the line of scrimmage and in zone coverage.
“We’re not afraid to run the stuff we normally run,” Bryant said. “We’ll spread them out and get our guys in space, and come in tight and try to get them out of the way.”
Pahranagat Valley features one of the best eight-man passing attacks in the state, led by senior quarterback Tabor Maxwell. Seniors Christian Higbee and Ike Taylor are the Panthers’ top rushers, and their receiving corps includes junior Culen Highbe — a 6-foot-9-inch target at tight end.
The Warriors’ defensive objective is to limit Pahranagat Valley’s big plays. Whittell can’t get beat deep by Maxwell if it wants to have a chance to knock off the Panthers.
“You have to play pretty much error free against them because you can’t make mistakes,” Bryant said. “It’s all about being where you’re supposed to be and doing what you’re supposed to do.”
While Huber has been hobbled with an ankle injury suffered in Whittell’s regular season finale, the Warriors will get a boost even if he sees limited action. That’s because junior Caleb Moretti will be back on the field after missing a handful of games — and expected to make an immediate impact on both sides of the ball.
Whittell knows not many expect it to bring Pahranagat Valley’s 103-game winning streak to an end Friday night. But the Warriors aren’t making the trip to Alamo just to keep the score close.
“We’re going down there to win a ballgame,” Bryant said. “We have nothing to lose and everything to gain.”