Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014 | 2 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.
The Las Vegas High football team has the personnel to make a deep playoff run this fall.
The Wildcats have a three-year starter at quarterback in Trevor Swenson, one of the area’s top players in running back and safety Elias Miller, and two Division I prospects anchoring the offensive line in well-put-together twins Mark Anthony (6-foot-5, 320 pounds) and Mark Gil Gacutan (6-foot-5, 315 pounds).
The defense is led by Jacob Littlefield (6-foot, 190 pounds), a two-time preseason all-city selection at linebacker who recorded more than 100 tackles in each of the past two seasons.
But that, unfortunately for the Wildcats, isn’t the entire story.
Although those five players surely give them an edge, it still might not be enough to win their first Sunrise Region championship since 2008. Las Vegas lacks depth, meaning one injury could derail the season.
“We are very proud of those kids,” Las Vegas coach James Thurman said of his senior leaders. “They’ve worked hard. We could use a few more of them, obviously. The kids have earned the notoriety they are getting. They are hardworking.”
Miller, who rushed for 7.6 yards per carry and 11 touchdowns last year, takes over as the full-time starter at running back and gives Las Vegas much-needed balance in its offense. He has scholarship offers from UNLV, BYU and Weber State.
Having Miller in the run game “helps a lot. It brings (defenders) into the box and gives me time to show off my arm strength and perform like I should,” said Swenson, who in 2013 passed for 2,638 yards and 28 touchdowns.
The offense, whether it’s running or passing the ball, relies heavily on the Gacutan twins. They first played football as freshmen, going from big-bodied linemen still learning the ins and outs of the position to forces capable of dominating the line of scrimmage.
“If we want to have a strong run game, we have to hold our blocks,” Mark Gil Gacutan said.
Las Vegas opens the season Friday in the “Bone Game” against Rancho, going for their 19th straight win in the series. The rivalry was one of the area’s best in the 1970s and ’80s, when both schools were downtown. With Rancho struggling in recent years, it’s safe to say the game has lost some of its luster.
Another game on the schedule stands out.
Realignment this summer switched four-time defending Sunrise champion Liberty to Las Vegas’ Northeast League, giving the Wildcats an opportunity to dethrone the powers. Liberty has won 39 straight games.
“That will be a good, fun challenge for us,” Swenson said.
To be competitive, though, Las Vegas needs to make improvements defensively. Last year, the Wildcats surrendered more than 30 points per game, including 47 in a loss in the Sunrise Regional semifinals to Green Valley.
“It’s a cliche, but we have to block and tackle. And we have to hold on to the football,” Thurman said. “We lost one or two games we shouldn’t have last year on turnovers.”