Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014 | 8 a.m.
Pahrump Valley High has one luxury this football season schools it competes against lack: Experience.
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Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer try to contain their excitement for the start of the football season enough to get through the first slate of games. They also discuss the two defending state champions, Bishop Gorman and Faith Lutheran.
The Trojans return 17 starters — eight on offense; nine on defense — to a lineup that could potentially produce a breakout season. That’s more returners than any school in Southern Nevada, regardless of classification.
“We are senior heavy and it’s a good group of seniors,” coach Joe Clayton said. “They have put a lot of time in this summer in the weight room.”
It’s a group of players anxious to make amends for the way last season ended. Pahrump lost a tiebreaker for the final two playoff spots to Cheyenne and Clark after being shutout in the last game of the season — a brutal 47-0 loss to Mojave. Each team had two-league wins, but Pahrump was left turning in its gear first.
Pahrump had suffered through multiple seasons of missed playoff appearances and lopsided defeats before Clayton took over three years ago. Then, being in contention for the postseason would have signaled a successful year. But times have changed.
“The (players) will tell you, along with everyone in the community, we have changed the culture (in the program),” Clayton said. “We know we need to win now.”
Pahrump is led by some of the best two-way performers in the Division I-A, including fullback and linebacker Sam Tucsnak and Jeremiah England (6-foot-4, 240 pounds), a well-put-together defensive end and tight end. They are determined to get over the hump and make the playoffs, knowing the familiarity with each other will be an advantage.
“It’s the chemistry. We just know each other,” England said. “We’ve got each others’ back. We work hard and depend on each other.”
While Pahrump returns most of its starters, it lacks player depth at all positions with reserves still developing. The depth arguably cost them a few victories last season, especially in a triple overtime loss to Cheyenne when players were gassed from having to play both ways.
“We felt as an entire program, and not just staff but the players as well, that we let some wins slip away from us,” Clayton said. “Slipping away probably isn’t the right word. We were so thin. A lot of the losses were (because) of not having player depth. Our starters were exhausted from playing both sides of the ball.”
Other players to watch include linebacker Deon Estes, lineman Jace Clayton (6-foot-2, 265 pounds), and running back and wide receiver Keenan Harris. Harris has the big-play ability on offense needed for Pahrump to win game.
“We are more of a running based offense,” Tucsnak said. “It’s up to our offensive line to man up and block the big guys up front.”