Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015 | 1:35 a.m.
Las Vegas Sun's Ray Brewer and Case Keefer return for their weekly chat about high school football, which includes the unfortunate situation that took place during the Bone Game and Arbor View's climb back up the ranks.
On a night Las Vegas High recognized its 2005 state championship team, the present-day Wildcats channeled their forerunners.
The Wildcats of a decade ago, which were stocked with big-time college players including former Boise State star and current Indianapolis Colts defensive lineman Billy Winn, won the title by shutting out their final three opponents in the playoffs. Not only did this year’s Las Vegas defense hold Coronado scoreless during the school’s homecoming game Friday night, but it also produced or set up the vast majority of the points.
The Wildcats massacred the Cougars 43-0.
“It made us really motivated and inspired to honor the 2005 state champions,” senior defensive back Zacharry Loveland said. “We felt like we had something to prove with them being here.”
Coronado barely cracked 100 total yards with only one play going for more than 20 yards. It was apparent Las Vegas’ defense was on a mission of opponent obliteration from the moment they took the field.
The Wildcats forced a punt in a minute and a half, but the kick brushed one of their legs leading to a Cougars recovery at their 34-yard line. Two plays later, Las Vegas senior linebacker Josh Perez rendered the mistake inconsequential by scooping a fumble and going 81 yards for a touchdown.
Las Vegas forced a three-and-out on the ensuing drive, and recovered a fumble on the 13-yard line after a bad snap. The Wildcats scored in two plays with sophomore quarterback Zach Matlock finding senior receiver Hanoi Rabago for a 12-yard touchdown strike.
Las Vegas forced two turnovers in the opening four minutes, and would go on to tally four more takeaways.
“People said they were bigger and stronger, and people say we’re not real big,” Las Vegas coach James Thurman said. “But we host a powerlifting meet here and we’ve won a couple in a row. I told our kids, ‘I’ll take our tiny little 180-pounders over other people’s 300-pounders any day of the week.'”
Members of the Wildcats’ front seven like Wingstop Player of the Week Cruz Littlefield, Thomas Dorsey, Archie McArthur and Jake Bowden were ferocious in tackling with faultless form. Coronado’s shoulder pads often rattled like the sound of a car collision.
The Cougars nearly had more players limp to the bench and come out of the game with minor injuries than they did first downs.
“In the past games, we missed a lot of tackles,” Loveland said. “But tonight, we proved we can hit.”
The Wildcats also proved they could cover. Junior defensive back Erick Williams had multiple pass break-ups and an interception.
But Loveland had the highlight of the night in sprinting 49 yards untouched for a touchdown after an interception to make the score 23-0.
“The ball got tipped and I caught it,” he said. “I looked up, and all I saw were jerseys of my teammates in front of me blocking.”
Matlock, who threw for 107 yards on 7-for-9 passing, and sophomore running back Elijah Hicks, who had 43 yards on nine carries, added rushing touchdowns before halftime to put Las Vegas ahead 37-0. Overall, Las Vegas also didn’t muster much offensive output.
But unlike Coronado, it was because the Wildcats didn’t need to.
“That’s what Wildcat football is: Go out there, hit and cause turnovers,” Loveland said.
Las Vegas hadn’t shut out a team in two seasons, but has now achieved the feat in back-to-back weeks. Any streak like that naturally takes Thurman, who started at Las Vegas as an assistant nearly 20 years ago, back to the run he helped oversee in 2005.
“Coaches were so superstitious so we didn’t talk about it,” he reminisced. “But we hadn’t given up a point in so many games and everyone knew it but no one said a word about it.”
This year, the Wildcats seem more open to talk — just as soon as they’re done hitting.
“Our kids are scrappy, hard-working east-side kids,” Thurman said. “We’ll take them to fight any day of the week.”