Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016 | 12:05 a.m.
Las Vegas Sun sports editors Ray Brewer and Case Keefer embark on their weekly discussion of all things high school football, covering a variety of topics ranging from Bishop Gorman's big win to the need for realignment.
As the game got deeper into the fourth quarter Friday night and the score remained tight, players on the Canyon Springs High football team knew how to handle themselves.
A close game against Las Vegas, even if the outcome would essentially determine the Northeast League champion, was nothing new for the Pioneers.
They were involved in a close game against Cheyenne and won. They were involved in a close game against Basic and rallied to win in overtime.
The outcome Friday was no different.
The Canyon Springs defense was solid most of the night, including a 96-yard interception return for a touchdown by Johnathan Bailey and holding Las Vegas to only a field goal in the second half of a 21-13 win.
Even before tonight, first-year coach Gus McNair had his players believing in themselves. Now, they’ll be a tough out come next month’s playoffs, especially with home field advantage.
“It was more about coming out here and building the brotherhood,” McNair said. “The guys have always been talented. It needed to be about the brotherhood. They had to learn how to be teammates. That is something we focused on.”
Canyon Springs improves to 6-1 overall and 2-0 in the Northeast League. Because Rancho and Eldorado, its remaining two league opponents, have struggled, it’s fair to say tonight’s win secured the league title for the Pioneers.
Not bad for a team that won just three games last season.
“All summer we put in a whole bunch of work — a lot more than last year,” said quarterback Diamante Burton, who rushed and passed for a touchdown. “This was like another Basic game. We just had to pull it out like we did against Basic.”
Las Vegas coaches spent most of the game managing its running backs. Juniors Diquan Brown and Elijah Hicks both suffered leg injuries and both were ineffective when they briefly returned. That resulted in more passing plays, including one near the Canyon Springs endzone at the start of the second quarter that flipped the game’s momentum in Canyon Springs’ favor.
Bailey read the play when he intercepted a pass near the endzone and raced the other way for a touchdown. Instead of trailing 10-0, Canyon Springs took the lead for good at 7-3.
“I’m kind of glad when things do go haywire and when we face adversity,” McNair said. “It toughens us up.”