Las Vegas Sun

May 22, 2019

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Prep football:

Heartaching Pioneers can’t pull upset of Las Vegas High

Missed opportunities the difference as Wildcats win crucial Northeast Division tilt

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A win certainly would not have erased the heartache Canyon Springs' Daveon Collins felt Friday night.

Not even the biggest victory would replace the loss the senior wide receiver suffered last week when his mother died.

But for his Pioneers teammates, who only hours earlier on Friday attended the funeral of Nicole Hall, think back to the multiple opportunities they had to pull off the upset victory over perennial power Las Vegas High in a game they dedicated to Collins — the disappointment may be just as strong as it showed on the weary faces immediately after their 24-14 loss at Canyon Springs High.

“I know for a fact we played on emotion tonight, but execution will beat emotion every time,” said Canyon Springs coach Hunkie Cooper, who verbally recapped what could have been had his team connected on that open touchdown pass near the goal-line in the final minutes, or had another sure score fall just inches short on fourth down in the first quarter, or the two missed field goal opportunities that may have tied the game.

“My hat is off to Vegas though, they came in and played tough physical football. They capitalized off of opportunities and won the football game.”

Las Vegas sophomore running back Farrell Victor, who paced the Wildcats with 188 rushing yards, provided the insurance and exclamation point when he took a handoff 41 yards up the middle to put the Wildcats up 10 with just 1:12 to play.

“He’s a heck of a back,” said Las Vegas coach Chris Faircloth, whose squad improved to 5-1 behind the all-important Northeast Division victory.

“We had the entire intention of just grinding him with the ball.”

Victor opened the scoring in the second quarter after Las Vegas caught a game-changing break.

Canyon Springs blocked Michael Flores' 38-yard field goal attempt, but fumbled the ball while trying to return the defensive highlight.

Instead the Wildcats fell on the football and Victor went untouched into the end zone on the very next play.

That summed up the scoring in a defensively fought first half, although Pioneers senior signal caller Tyler Ward just missed pay dirt by literally an inch or two on a fourth down run.

But almost as soon as the second stanza started, so too did the action.

Las Vegas added to their lead with a 37-yard kick by Flores.

Canyon Springs’ Malik Brown took the ensuing kickoff 68 yards.

Two plays later Trey Evans hauled in a 22-yard touchdown pass from Ward.

Las Vegas return man Dee Hall sprinted 65 yards back the other way, but a yellow hankie negated the big play.

Didn’t matter, Wildcat sophomore quarterback Hassan Henderson hooked up with Saeveon Butler for a 74-yard touchdown strike from the first play of scrimmage.

The Pioneers answered with a 70-yard bomb from Ward to Leo Willis on their first play and running back Devin Rimmey rumbled in seven yards on the very next snap.

A Canyon Springs two-point conversion cut Las Vegas’ lead to 17-14 going into the fourth.

“We thought we were in good shape, and then they got the momentum back and it was a scrap from there on out,” Faircloth said.

Canyon Springs marched 80 yards on its first drive of the fourth quarter, but had two scoring chances slip away.

Senior running back Marquise Turner watched a wide open touchdown pass fall through his arms just outside the goal line and kicker Devin Fleischer misfired on a 25-yard field goal that would have tied it.

The Pioneers wouldn’t get any better opportunities, and Las Vegas’ Victor closed it out with his long jaunt.

“This one hurts a lot because we really wanted it so bad for Daveon,” Ward said. “We just let a couple of opportunities slip right between our fingers.

“But I know I’m proud of how we played with so much going on today. We really played with all our hearts.”

That fact was most evident to the Pioneers’ first-year coach, who like his hurting player lost his father when he was in high school.

“I questioned God for a long time why did he take my father. I didn’t know until last week what God was preparing me for,” Cooper said. “He was preparing me to address my football team and one young man in particular.

“The hardest thing I’ve ever done is pull one of my players off the field and tell him his mom had died at 40-years-old. But our players rallied around it and even though we didn’t pull out a win tonight, we play through one of life’s great lessons. Of that, I’m most proud.”

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