Of all the season-opening games kicking off on Friday night, none has more on the line than Pahranagat Valley’s home tussle with Wells High. It’s OK if you weren’t aware of it. After all, the town hosting the game is smaller than most urban neighborhoods and some New York or L.A. apartment buildings.
Regardless of size, the bottom line is that the Pahranagat Valley Panthers, from tiny Alamo, Nev. (population: 1,080), are riding the nation’s longest and most remarkable winning streak into the 2016 campaign, just as they have for nearly a decade.
Pahranagat Valley has won the past 93 games it has competed. In 2015 it went 12-0, with many games essentially over before halftime. The 2016 crew will likely aim for more of the same.
A win against Wells will give Pahranagat the national 8-man record for consecutive wins. The school is currently tied with Shattuck (Okla.), which won 93 in a row from 2003 to ’09.
The season opener against Wells has become a tradition with the teams facing off to begin the season in each of the last 12 years.
As noted by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the 2016 Panthers will have to replace star tight end Shawn Wadsworth, but they return perhaps their two most important players: four-year starting quarterback Tabor Maxwell and defensive star Garrett Higbee, a relative of longtime coach Ken Higbee and one of two Higbees to start for the Panthers.
“Tabor Maxwell continues at the helm of an offense he has led since starting as a freshman, (and last season’s) Defensive Player of the Year Garrett Higbee returns and is a year older and stronger,” the elder Higbee told the Review-Journal.
For Pahranagat Valley, that may be enough to run the table. The team’s pace-driven pro-style offense is almost impossible to defend in 8-man football, and even when it is slowed, the team’s 3-3-2 defense is stout enough that scoring a touchdown in the course of a game can sometimes feel like a victory.
Of course, none of this was ever planned when the Pahranagat football program was started by Vaughn Higbee — that’s Ken Higbee’s dad — in 1972. In the years since, the team has begun training future stars as early as second grade, always with an eye on eventual success when they pull on a Panthers jersey.
Ken Higbee has indicated this is likely his last season and he is transitioning some duties to associate coach Brett Hansen.
For some new players who will get that chance Friday, the future is now. If the past is any indication, they’ll all have a lot more winning to do in the days, weeks and months ahead. And when it’s all over, the coach will take home their uniforms and make sure they’re clean for the next week’s game, just as he always has.