Losing the first two games of the season is not ideal, but the Pahrump Valley High School football team knows it’s not the end of the world. Just last season, the Trojans opened 0-2, split the next two and then went undefeated through Sunset League play to reach the Class 3A playoffs.
And Trojans coach Joe Clayton said this year’s 0-2 start feels no different than last year’s 0-2 start.
“Honestly, no, it really doesn’t, especially because as well as we played against Virgin Valley, it feels very similar,” he said. “Obviously, the first game (a loss to Lowry) was identical. We played the same two teams and again Virgin Valley wasn’t a lopsided game. We were in the game until the end, for the most part. We still feel confident.”
The battered and bruised Trojans could use a week off, but that’s not in the cards. The next best thing would be a weak opponent, and while nobody in the Trojans camp would say it out loud, this week’s foe could be just the tonic they need.
The Sports Leadership and Management Academy is a charter public school in Henderson founded in 2016, and the school will graduate its first senior class next spring.
That means the Bulls have not been playing varsity sports very long, and this is their first season playing a full league schedule in football. One of 11 football-playing schools in Class 3A South, SLAM competes in the Sunrise League with Boulder City, Moapa Valley, Rancho, Sunrise Mountain and Virgin Valley.
The Bulls are 1-1, rolling past Class 2A Calvary Chapel and getting beaten 42-14 by Del Sol. As an independent last season, the Bulls went 6-0 playing mostly junior varsity opponents, including Pahrump Valley, which they defeated 31-12.
As a sports-oriented school, the Bulls have a large number of students on their football roster, with more than 50 players listed. As a new school, most of them are freshmen and sophomores.
But Pahrump Valley coach Joe Clayton is not that concerned with the Bulls, as he has is own problems. The Trojans are hoping enough players are healthy to dress more than 20 for Friday night’s game at Chaparral High School, and the injured include top lineman Armani McGhee and leading rusher Tony Margiotta.
“With Tony out, obviously we have to do more committee running,” Clayton explained. “We have to be concerned with how good our conditioning is on both sides of the ball. We’re going to rotate a couple of other bodies at running back just to get some fresher guys in there.”
Margiotta leads Pahrump Valley in rushing with 181 yards and has 33 of the Trojans’ 96 carries through two games. But while Margiotta, Andrew Avena and quarterback Dylan Wright have handled the bulk of the rushing duties, seven other players have carried the ball for the Trojans.
But of far more importance to the Trojans is the fact that after playing what likely will be their most physical opponent of the season in Virgin Valley, SLAM presents a much less difficult challenge in the trenches.
“After playing a team like Virgin Valley, we’re pretty confident against SLAM,” Clayton said.
Trojans Game Night
■ Who: Pahrump Valley (0-2) vs. SLAM Academy (1-1).
■ When/where: 7 p.m. today, Sept. 6, Chaparral High School, Las Vegas.
■ Series history: First meeting.
■ Next week: Pahrump Valley vs. Boulder City at Trojan Field, 7 p.m. Sept. 13.
■ Outlook: The Bulls, in their first season playing a league schedule, are off to a 1-1 start and have yet to play a close game. In their opening game, senior Isaiah Golden rushed for 92 yards, and junior Jaden Durant added 75 yards in a 43-0 rout of Class 2A Calvary Chapel. Despite the score, the Bulls only totaled 243 yards of offense. Last week against Del Sol, two Dragons averaged more than 11 yards per carry and the Bulls allowed three touchdowns through the air. Durant has the most carries on the team, while Golden leads SLAM in rushing with 127 yards. The Bulls don’t pass all that much, but when they do sophomore Gavin Thammavongsa has been their most productive receiver, averaging 24 yards per catch. Only 45 of the Bulls’ 331 total yards have come through the air.
■ Did you know?: SLAM Academy was founded by rap star Pitbull, who founded the original SLAM Academy in Miami. The curriculum is designed for students contemplating careers in sports medicine, sports management and entertainment and business management.
■ Coach Clayton says: “They remind us a lot of Democracy Prep from last year. They ahve a lot of speed, and that speed is always a concern. But they don’t have the size, so we’re pretty confident we’ll be able to move the ball.”