If ever a team needed a week off, it is the Pahrump Valley High School football team.
On the surface, this season is an almost exact replica of last season, with the Trojans taking one win into their week off with league play starting the following week. But this year’s 1-4 team bears little resemblance to last year’s 1-3 team in a very important way.
“We’re in a situation where we’re so thin on both sides of the ball,” Pahrump Valley coach Joe Clayton said. “It’s to the point now where we’re limited in what we can do based on the personnel that we have.”
The Trojans, who weren’t deep to start the season, have seen player after player leave the field with injuries, most recently Kody Peugh, one of the team’s top three rushers through five games, who left Friday’s game at Coronado with what could be a broken collarbone. Peugh was scheduled to have it examined Tuesday.
“Losing Kody put us to 19 boys,” Clayton said. “We finished with 19 athletes against a roster of 60, and I think they had 51 or 52 active. They can just continue to throw fresh bodies in, and there’s nothing we can do about that.”
Clayton said Peugh left the game during the first half with a shin injury. “As big as he is, those guys always go right at his leg,” he said. “His shin was a little sore.” He then left the game for good in the third quarter and watched the last part of the game with his arm in a sling.
“There’s a good possibility he’s got a broken collarbone,” Clayton said. “And if he’s got a broken collarbone, his season is over.”
A team with only two dozen or so players on it simply cannot afford to lose the kind of players the Trojans have lost. And Clayton’s love of an 11-piece machine all working together means anyone not doing his job properly results in the whole thing blowing up, so any starting player is potentially a major loss.
If it is a broken collarbone, Peugh will join Armani McGhee on the high school version of the injured reserve list. On the bright side, junior Tony Margiotta should be back on the field when the Trojans open league play against Cheyenne, which was the goal since the team learned his original injury was not as serious as feared.
“It looks like Tony’s going to be healthy, which is just huge for us,” Clayton said. “It looks like he’s going to get cleared on Friday, so he’ll be ready for Cheyenne, and we are so excited to get him back. The bye week, again, coming at a great time for us, right before league.
Margiotta’s return is likely to have a positive impact on the Trojans, and not just because he was their leading rusher at the time of his injury.
“You hear a lot of the older guys talk about a locker-room-type guy,” Clayton said. “He’s that guy. He brings a lot more to the table. He brings the attitude; the boys will feed off of his great attitude. It’s not just him on the field.”
Other injuries are not quite as serious, and Clayton sees 21 or possibly 22 players dressed and ready to go for the Oct. 4 game at Cheyenne.
“Jacob Buys, Miguel Belman are kind of roughed up a little bit, but I think this bye week will get them back and healthy as well,” he said.
Margiotta rushed for 126 yards in the opening loss to Lowry and had 12 carries for 55 yards against Virgin Valley before leaving the game with a knee injury. Each week since, Margiotta has looked less and less like an injured player moping on the sideline and more and more like a player itching to get back on the field. Then again, he instinctively started to go back on the field when he got up after the injury.
How can you not root for a kid like that? And with the Trojans outmanned by almost all of their opponents, even the less-talented ones, a lot of heroics from a lot of people might be required if they are to return to the Class 3A Southern Region playoffs.
Agenda for a week off
Not having a game Friday night doesn’t exactly mean nothing to do each day, but this week is different than any game week.
“We’re going to get in the weight room,” Clayton said. “We’re big believers in getting in the weight room. We’re going to take it easy on them but not get completely away from the conditioning part of it. Try to have a little bit of fun with them, loosen them up a little bit. The one thing I told them, this off week, right before league, Season 1 is done and Season 2 starts now. And that’s how we’re approaching it.”
Sounds like last year. Last year the Trojans played four nonleague games, going 1-3, the had a week off before five Sunset League games. This year, there were five nonleague games, the Trojans went 1-4 and now have a week off before four Sunset League games. The difference in the Sunset is Democracy Prep, which, citing a lack of players, was permitted to play an independent schedule.
So, with only four other teams in the league, Pahrump Valley conceivably wind up in the playoffs with an overall record of 3-6. Not that such a scenario would be unique. In fact, the Trojans made the playoffs in back-to-back years with three-win seasons. In 2005, the Trojans went 3-5 but 3-1 in 3A South to win the league, then lost to Virgin Valley in the playoffs.
A year later, a 3-6 regular season included just 1-3 in the 3A South, but they reached the playoffs as the fourth seed, losing to Moapa Valley.
But this year’s team is not looking at repeating either of those seasons. What they see is that their nonleague schedule was brutal, they have had injuries, and they will be healthier heading into the Sunset League portion of the schedule.
“I think our kids have that same mindset,” Clayton said. “Even though the nonleague did not go the way we wanted it to, they know how tough the nonleague schedule was. We’re trying to get them into buying into understanding how much better we’ll be in league, and some of our league opponents won’t be as tough as nonleague.
“Nobody’s really stopped our offense, our defense has gotten better and better, so we’ve just got to put a complete game together and take care of the ball, stop making some of our mental mistakes, and I think they believe we’re making the playoffs.”
Coronado by the numbers
It’s very difficult to say a team that took a 43-14 lead on you isn’t clearly the better team, and that wasn’t the case. The Cougars are better, but not by 43-14, and maybe not even by the 43-28 final score.
Consider the first drive of the game, when Pahrump Valley put on an offensive clinic. The Trojans ran 14 plays and moved 70 yards, highlighted by a 17-yard run by Kenny Delker and a 6-yard run by Peugh on fourth-and-11 from the Coronado 17. And while the next two possessions resulted in three-and-outs, the Trojans did it again during the second quarter, taking the ball at their own 29 with 6:49 left and using 11 plays to get into the end zone, with Delker doing the honors on a nifty 35-yard scamper with 55 second left in the half.
But then, one of the things that makes the Cougars the better team went on display. With the Pahrump Valley end zone 75 yards away and Coronado on its own 25-yard line with 47 seconds left before halftime, quarterback Keegan Tharp calmly used four plays to go the length of the field, completing passes for 25, 23 and 27 yards to give the Cougars the lead for good.
Coronado’s passing game was effective throughout the night, with Tharp throwing for almost 200 yards and finding seven receivers in the process. And this was a team that had managed just nine points against Moapa Valley and seven against Foothill of Santa Ana, California.
In the Foothill game, Tharp managed to complete 9 of 21 passes for 116 yards, while he was also under 50 percent against Moapa Valley, although his 13-of-29 passing totaled 227 yards. On the ground, Coronado racked up 227 yards against the Trojans despite being held to 27 yards rushing against Moapa Valley and only 70 yards on 31 carries, a 2.3-yard average, against Foothill.
In fact, Coronado picked up more yards — 80 on a jet sweep — on its first play from scrimmage against Pahrump Valley than it did in the entire games against Moapa Valley and Foothill. On the first play! You can’t pretend that’s not troubling.
But when asked if there was any way to separate any aspect of the game from the war of attrition the Trojans were losing, Clayton said no. It’s simply impossible. So while the fact Coronado was able to move the ball far better against Pahrump Valley than against Moapa Valley or Foothill is concerning, the fact is it might not have any bearing at all on what happens during league play.
You just don’t expect Valley or Del Sol to have the athletes Coronado does, after all. Plus, Clayton did say there were positives out of playing Coronado, despite the significant difference in size and, more importantly, depth.
“Coronado, they’re not a strong 4A, but just simply playing teams that have the athletic ability and the size, and we’re still competing with them,” Clayton said. “We’re scoring against them. They realize they’re competing. it’s not like we’re getting blown out by any means.”
Moreover, Clayton cited Delker and Neal Redmond when asked for any players who stood out to him during the game.
“Neal Redmond, he did a fantastic job of blocking as a wing,” he said. “If anything, it would be Neal’s blocking at the wing position and Kenny’s running the ball.”
Delker finished with team-leading totals of 11 carries and 78 yards against Coronado.
Around the Sunset
We keep talking about the tough nonleague schedule and how things will get easier in league play, but exactly what is happening around the Sunset League?
Cheyenne (4-1) continued its hot start with a 24-20 victory over Moapa Valley. While the Pirates are a strong team most years, the Desert Shields have played a mixed bag: wins over Eldorado (0-4), Rancho (1-4) and Cimarron-Memorial (3-1) and a 12-7 loss to Boulder City (3-1). Still, they have been the class of the Sunset in nonleague play as the only one of the five teams with a winning record.
Del Sol (2-3) has beaten SLAM Academy and Sunrise Mountain while losing to Desert Oasis, Virgin Valley and Silverado. Their forays into the Class 4A minefield have resulted in 96 points allowed in two games.
Valley (2-3) is the team best known in Pahrump as the tough opponent the Trojans needed a late score to beat and cap an undefeated league season last year. Oh, and for having a turf field so worn down it was one of three in Clark County deemed unfit to play on before this season. The Vikings have won two straight after an 0-3 start, but those wins are against Rancho (27-14) and SLAM Academy (19-14), neither of which will turn any heads.
Western (1-3) is, well, Western. The Warriors haven’t won a league game since 2010, when they were in the Class 4A Southwest League with Pahrump Valley, and they don’t seem to be much of a threat to change that. The win was over Class 2A Calvary Chapel (21-0), while the Warriors have been pounded by Boulder City (35-0), Rancho (!) (31-0) and Sunrise Mountain (!!) 55-0. To put that another way, just five weeks into the season and the Warriors are the only win for two other teams.
The Trojans get their toughest league foe first. Win that, and a playoff berth is pretty much assured. Lose it, and even with a 1-5 start they still can make the playoffs.