Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014 | 1:59 a.m.
Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer gloat over local high school football teams' big out of state weekend before getting sophomoric and starting some trouble with discussions on Bishop Gorman, Centennial, Desert Pines and more.
Schedule-makers may have saddled Shadow Ridge with the toughest slate in Southern Nevada.
The Mustangs face four of the current top five teams in the Sun’s rankings — within the opening seven weeks of the season no less. The lineup of powerhouses would demoralize lesser teams before the season even began.
Not the Mustangs. Shadow Ridge has reached a point where it wants to play the best, because it believes it can compete.
“I personally can’t wait to play Bishop Gorman just because I feel like they’re overrated even though they are one of the best,” senior defensive back Nick Patrick said of an Oct. 2 road game against the five-time defending state champions. “I respect them for that, but I just can’t wait to play them.”
Two meetings with the Gaels in the last four years haven’t gone well for the Mustangs, which got outscored by a combined 134-13. But both those matchups came in first-round playoff games.
With realignment, Shadow Ridge now falls in the same Sunset Southwest division as Gorman for the first time. Palo Verde, Legacy and Durango make up the rest of league but Shadow Ridge has reasons for their confidence.
The Mustangs are coming off of their first winning regular season in three years that led to a playoff appearance.
“Hopefully, it’s the experience we had from last year,” Shadow Ridge Frank Tousa said of this season’s keys. “The kids worked hard in the weight room. Hopefully, we’ll try to crash the party this year.”
They’re going to crash right into opponents, embracing an identity as a physical team. Shadow Ridge has no other choice considering what it returns.
Among the 11 returning starters are nearly the entire offensive and defensive lines.
Seniors Jordan Larson and Michael Payton will take on leadership on the offensive front. Some of the responsibility will fall on seniors Malivai Meyer and Bryce Alexander defensively.
Senior Tra Forrest stays in the trenches on both sides of the ball, making him perhaps the Mustangs’ most valuable player.
“Keeping everybody all together as a team and playing as a family can get it done,” Forrest said. “You can do anything.”
Shadow Ridge is less fortunate when it comes to proven yardage production on the roster. Senior running back/wide receiver Melvin Johnson is the lone skill player with starting experience returning.
Johnson had more than 430 all-purpose yards a season ago. The other area of strength for Shadow Ridge is the secondary.
In addition to Patrick, the Mustangs bring back senior Chris Tibeaux-Moore.
“Our defensive backs are pretty solid — three returners that started on the varsity line,” Patrick said.
That could come in handy against a team capable of attacking through the air like Bishop Gorman. Shadow Ridge has a ways to go before reaching that game, though.
The Mustangs’ schedule is relentless.
“There aren’t going to be any easy games for us this year,” Tousa said.