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Southwest League: Pahrump Valley football steps up — way up — in competition

Pahrump Valley’s football players didn’t quit last season, despite an 0-8-1 record.

The reward for their perseverance?

An even tougher schedule this year.

The Trojans have moved from Class 3A to 4A, becoming a member of the Sunset Region’s Southwest Division.

“The kids aren’t letting moving up to 4A hinder them,” said first-year head coach Leo Verzilli, a Trojans assistant last year. “It’s a big mountain to climb, but they’re as enthusiastic as the coaching staff is. The kids are determined to come in and not be everyone’s whipping posts.”

That might be easier said than done, because the Trojans finished last week with only 23 varsity players. As one of the smallest 4A schools, Pahrump Valley doesn’t have the number of students from which to draw as most of their larger counterparts.

“There’s a lot of things that go on with not having numbers,” Verzilli said. “When you have numbers, you have enough kids to practice against. You have enough kids to push each other and create competition for jobs. We don’t have that.

“Our starting 12 or 13 kids are capable of beating just about any team, but we can’t afford injuries and we have to control the clock.”

The Trojans plan to run a Wing-T offense, hoping to grind out long drives and chew up clock while having opponents chase them around the field.

“If we can hold the rock, we’ll own the clock,” Verzilli said. “We don’t have a lot of size. If you don’t have size, you have to be deceptive.”

The senior class has also set a good tone in early practices, Verzilli said.

Seniors Andy Floyd and Gueren Fenikle should see plenty of time in the offensive backfield. Joey Collucci and Steven Schmidt will anchor the line.

“I could not have asked for or hand picked a better senior class,” Verzilli said. “They’re setting an absolutely perfect example for our younger kids.”

The Trojans open the season at Mountain View on Saturday. Their home opener is Sept. 5 against fellow 4A newcomer Desert Oasis.

Pahrump Valley’s league opener is Sept. 19 at Bonanza. The team will visit defending state champion Bishop Gorman on Oct. 24.

“One of the other issues we face is we don’t know anything about any of the opponents in our league,” Verzilli said. “We haven’t seen them play. They don’t know us, either, but they know everything about each other.”

The question remains, though, how the Southwest Division will treat the new kids on the block.

“If we line up at the end of the night to shake hands and the other team looks us in the eye and tells us they respect us and we belong here, that’s the best thing we can hear,” Verzilli said.

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