Las Vegas Sun

May 23, 2019

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hs football:

Donnel Pumphrey has legend-worthy night in blowout Canyon Springs win

Pumphrey scores on five of his 10 carries, averages nearly 35 yards per attempt

Sun 2012 All-City Team Members

Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Canyon Springs’s D.J. Pumphrey from the Sun’s All-City team.

Prep Sports Now

Nevada teams hold it down nationally

Bishop Gorman and Faith Lutheran pulled off upsets against out-of-state opponents last week. Can Liberty follow suit when it travels to Southern California to challenge Crespi Saturday night? Gorman's got another televised contest, too — against Saint Louis in Hawaii. Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer break down these contests and more on this edition of Prep Sports Now.

The great ones have a way of transforming on the football field, zoning everything else out to the point where raw ability takes over in a manner they can't describe.

Canyon Springs High running back Donnel Pumphrey should know that sensation after his team’s season-opening 47-6 victory over Foothill Friday night. Asked to describe his touchdown runs of 91, 73 and 70 yards, Pumphrey couldn’t find the words.

“Honestly, I don’t even know,” Pumphrey said. “I just see green and I run for a touchdown.”

Pumphrey had 10 carries for 347 yards and five touchdowns against the Falcons, a team that battered the Pioneers by 17 points last season.

It was the type of performance on which legends are built. If the San Diego State-bound senior lives up to his immense potential on the next level, those in the Las Vegas high school football community will reflect on nights like Friday.

They’ll talk about how Pumphrey continually made a couple cuts to elude defenders and then used his speed to leave the rest helplessly far behind. During one seven-minute stretch in the first half, Pumphrey touched the ball four times and found the end zone on each occasion with rushes of 73, 70, 57 and 41 yards.

“We knew D.J. would run hard,” Canyon Springs coach Hunkie Cooper said. “We knew his speed would manage the game.”

Pumphrey’s night started with a different feeling. Two hours before kickoff, he went to visit with Cooper.

Cooper could tell something was bothering his star running back.

“He came into the equipment and just started crying,” Cooper reflected. “He realized this was his senior year. This is it. No do-overs, man. His heart was heavy, but I told him ‘you don’t have any pressure.’”

Pumphrey said Cooper encouraged him, which was all he needed. Well, that pep talk and the offensive line providing holes he’s not accustomed to.

The unit led by senior tackle Fabian Leos Baca showed major improvement from the last couple years. Cooper emphasized holding blocks long enough to give backs four or five yards of space all offseason.

The always-business Cooper couldn’t even hide his excitement over the lineman pulling off exactly what he asked.

“Tonight, they played so hard,” Pumphrey said of his lineman. “Coaches got in their head and they showed up.”

Pumphrey could have used the same quote about the Pioneers defense. Aside from Foothill quarterback Drex Doxtator’s 19-yard pass to Tyler Morris — Pumphrey’s teammate next year at San Diego State — in the second quarter when the game was already 21-0, Canyon Springs pulled off a shut out.

Doxtator finished 22-for-44 with 214 yards and got picked off twice by the Canyon Springs secondary. The Falcons were on the verge of the red zone right before halftime when Tobias Carson intercepted one of Doxtator’s passes and returned it 80 yards for a touchdown to make the score 34-6.

Reaquan Bascombe had the other interception. A.J. Cooper and Stephon Revels came close to notching their own, but settled for break-ups on the statistics sheet.

Rayshawn Henderson forced and recovered a fumble five minutes into the game for the Pioneers. That set up Pumphrey’s first touchdown, the one that came from 41 yards out.

Pumphrey agreed Friday was the best game of his career even without remembering the details.

“I was just running downhill,” he said. “The coaches said keep running hard. The holes were opening up and I was hitting the holes.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at

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