Friday, Oct. 28, 2011 | 2:15 a.m.
Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer look across the Las Vegas valley at the playoff races still alive entering the last week of the regular season. Does Canyon Springs have a shot against Las Vegas? What about Foothill vs. Liberty? Listen in for discussion on these topics and more.
This time, the Canyon Springs High football team’s 2-point conversion attempt was successful.
The Pioneers’ Donnel Pumphrey ended the game Thursday night by scoring on a 2-point conversion in overtime to give Canyon Springs a dramatic 22-21 victory against Las Vegas High for the Northeast Division title.
Trailing 21-14 after Las Vegas scored on its possession in overtime, Pumphrey brought Canyon Springs to within one point when he scored on a 1-yard run on a fourth down play. Canyon Springs coach Hunkie Cooper elected to attempt the 2-point conversion for the win, opting for victory over the much safer option of tying the game by kicking an extra point.
Two years ago, in the Sunrise Regional quarterfinals against Liberty, Cooper elected to go for the 2-point conversion and victory in a similar spot late in the game. That attempt, however, failed.
Thursday’s attempt was perfectly executed with Pumphrey easily slicing through the Las Vegas defensive line.
“Once they called my number I got super excited. I knew I would get in there because my lineman would open up the holes,” Pumphrey said.
Canyon Springs led most of the second half until Las Vegas quarterback Hasaan Henderson found Joshua Mayfield in the back of the end zone to even the game at 14-all with less than a minute remaining in regulation.
Then, when Las Vegas received the ball first in overtime, Henderson needed just two plays to give the Wildcats the lead, scoring on a 3-yard quarterback keeper.
Canyon Springs could have easily been demoralized. After leading most of the second half and being so close to what would have been an upset victory, it appeared the Northeast title that was within reach was suddenly a lost cause.
Considering Canyon Springs’ roster is loaded with underclassmen, not folding under pressure showed tremendous maturity. That’s something the players get from Cooper, whose confidence in them was rewarded with a Northeast Division crown.
That’s the last spot several thought Canyon Springs would be in at the beginning of the year when the Pioneers were outscored 76-26 in dropping both their non-league games.
They are clearly a different team heading into the playoffs. They host Basic, the Southeast’s No. 4 seed, next Friday.
“We expected to win the game,” Cooper said. “When you put in the work, you expect to win the game. These kids have certain class and character to them. That is something you can’t build overnight.
“I’m still going to be criticized as a coach and people are still going to talk negatively about the program,” he continued. “But for tonight we are division champs and that is only going to motivate us because now we have something to hold on to.”
Las Vegas (8-1 overall), which entered the game undefeated and was considered by several as a heavy favorite, took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter when Henderson connected with Farrell Victor for a 40-yard touchdown.
But the Las Vegas offense couldn’t get much going after that, struggling for virtually the entire game until the final drive. Las Vegas committed five turnovers and Henderson was under pressure all night.
“We can’t turn the ball over,” Las Vegas coach James Thurman said. “(I) made poor decisions calling plays and we turned the ball over. We’ll get better.”
Pumphrey, who rushed for 223 yards on 43 carries, started the comeback with a 29-yard touchdown run before halftime. Canyon Springs failed on the conversion attempt and trailed 7-6 at the break.
Canyon Springs dominated the second half, taking a 14-7 lead with 6:16 to play in the third quarter on a 1-yard quarterback keeper for a touchdown from Kevion Glenn. Canyon Springs received the ball to open the second half and took nearly six minutes off the clock before scoring.
After Cooper finished talking to his players following the postgame celebration, he walked to an empty part of the field to soak in what had just happen.
Tears were in his eyes and rolling down his face. You couldn’t blame him for being emotional — after all, he feels this victory helps show the rest of the city the good things his program has to offer. And it sure beats losing.
“I took that same walk and shed these same tears (after the Liberty game),” Cooper said. “This time, these are tears of joy.”