Mona Shield Payne / Special to the Sun
Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2015 | 2 a.m.
Las Vegas Sun sports editors Ray Brewer and Case Keefer go over the state semifinal matchups in high school football.
Seven years later Dan Cahill still thinks the field-goal attempt split the uprights. So do others affiliated with the Basic football team.
Trailing Del Sol by one point in the 2009 state semifinals late in the fourth quarter, Basic attempted the would-be game-winning kick. Those on the Basic sideline rejoiced because the kick appeared to be good to give them a lead with three minutes remaining.
But officials ruled the ball went wide left, and Basic wound up losing one game short of playing for the state championship, 20-19.
“The Del Sol players thought it was good because they all walked off the field with their heads down,” said Cahill, the Wolves’ longtime assistant coach. “Our kids are going crazy and the Del Sol kids are walking off, so obviously everyone saw the same thing. But the referees are looking at each other, looking at each other, and then signal (not good).”
Basic is back in the semifinals at 12:10 p.m. Saturday when it hosts Liberty for the right to play next week for the Division I state championship. The game doubles as the Sunrise Region championship game, which Liberty (10-1) has won the past five seasons, including last year over Basic.
Cahill, 68, remembers more than the Del Sol game. He is the link from the program’s past to modern day, starting his first tenure on staff in 1975. He left briefly for short stints at Boulder City High and with the UNLV swim team, but always found his way back to Henderson.
Basic, you see, is home. Everyone is family.
His son, Jeff, is the head coach who played for the Wolves in early 1990s. Seven of Jeff’s assistants are former players, including offensive coordinator Robby Faiman, whose dad is former head coach Cliff Frazier.
Last season, three of Basic’s players had grandfathers — yes, grandfathers — who played for Dan Cahill. This year, it’s just one, senior safety Austin Owens.
They have one thing in common with Basic teams of yesteryear.
“We have good kids, such hardworking kids,” Dan Cahill said. “Look at these kids. There are no Division I kids out there. Nobody has scholarship offers. Our outside linebackers weigh 160 and 170 pounds.”
He has coached four state champion swimming teams at Basic but has never been to the championship game in football in more than 30 seasons. The Wolves won the Sunrise Division in 1989, Jeff’s sophomore season, but lost to Clark in the Southern Zone championship game. And, of course, they were inches away in 2009.
Jeff Cahill grew up following his dad to Basic games and practices, waiting for his turn to play for the Wolves. He graduated in 1992 and took over the program when Frazier retired in 2008.
Father and son have transformed Basic into a consistent winner because their personalities complement each other. It’s the classic good cop-bad cop scenario: Dan Cahill is high-strung, especially on game days, and doesn’t hesitate yelling at players. Jeff Cahill is calm and laid-back.
“Dan will scream at you and the next minute be your best friend,” said Kyle Grismanauskas, a Basic senior, whose dad, Craig played on the 1989 team for Dan Cahill. “Jeff is the kind of coach who will pull you aside and tell you what you need to work on.”
Whatever they are doing is working.
In eight seasons with the Cahills calling the shots, the Wolves have reached the regional championship game three times, also regularly placing players on the all-state team and developing the likes of UNLV standout Devonte Boyd.
Saturday will be another accomplishment because they are bringing the people of east Henderson, a group of supporters who passionately love their Wolves, a rare late-November game. Basic has been around since the 1940s, but it is believed the Wolves haven’t played at home this late in the season.
Liberty will have to do more than beat Basic on the field. It will have to contend with a vocal standing-room-only crowd.
“My phone has been ringing off the hook since people found out the game was here,” Dan Cahill said.
Basic (10-1) will need all the help it can get against Liberty.
The Patriots have one defeat in the past six seasons to a Sunrise opponent and is ranked No. 7 in the Pacific Region by USA Today. Its quarterback, sophomore Kenyon Oblad, has multiple scholarship offers, and junior wide receiver/defensive back Ethan Dedeaux is one of the best two-way players in the state.
Liberty’s offense is the rare balance of the spread-option attack based on speed at the skilled positions and the power running game. Players such as Dedeaux have speed that Basic will struggle containing, yet at the same time, the Patriots are big and physical on the offensive line, and can aggressively run the football.
“We have to fight fire with fire and attack them first,” Grismanauskas said.
Basic, though, doesn’t consider itself the underdogs. Last year, they lost by just 12 points to Liberty in the Sunrise championship game, and players have used the prospects of a rematch to fuel their offseason training program. Ten players who started on defense last season against Liberty are expected to start Saturday.
They believe Liberty can be beaten and that they’ll be the team to dethrone the Patriots.
And with the Cahills on their side, maybe the confidence is warranted. It’s time for father and son to take the next step — leading their community’s team to state. This time, the field goal will be good.
“Just to have that opportunity (in the state game) would be awesome,” Jeff Cahill said. “We came so close in 2009. We would love to get through this time.”