Ken Higbee has built quite the dynasty for Pahranagat Valley’s football team in the past decade.
His Panthers haven’t lost a game in 80 tries — the nation’s longest win streak — and have won six consecutive state titles while easily handling the competition.
The 18th-year coach will go for his seventh title in a row and ninth in 10 years when Pahranagat Valley (11-0) faces Spring Mountain (9-2) in the Division IV state final at 6 p.m. today at The Meadows High School.
“They never get old,” Higbee said. “The big thing is you just want to continue to prepare the kids to be successful. The kids expect to be there at the end. They place it on themselves. And as a coach, it’s our job to prepare them. We try to put them into positions to be successful, and they go out and make the plays.”
Pahranagat Valley and Spring Mountain will be meeting for the state title for the third straight year. The Panthers won 26-14 in 2012 and 36-8 last season.
But Higbee said there’s something different about this Spring Mountain team.
“I really believe this is the most athletic team Aaron (Masden, coach) has had at Spring Mountain,” Higbee said. “Their speed and physicality is superior to any team they’ve ever had. The kids have jelled really well as a team, and Masden does a phenomenal job from the start of the season to the end of it.”
Spring Mountain has proven to be the biggest threat to the Panthers in the past few years. When the teams played Oct. 2, the game was tied 22-22 in the third quarter before Pahranagat Valley scored 32 unanswered points to get the win.
This season, the Panthers have averaged 61.2 points per game while giving up 10.6. Running back Wade Leavitt has had a lot to do with that, as the senior has scored 43 touchdowns to rank first in scoring in any division in Southern Nevada. He’s scored 21 more than any other player.
“He’s definitely the key on both sides of the ball,” Masden said. “It’s going to be a tough task. The kid is a big-time player in this division. We’re going to just have to bring that fight to him. Nobody is going to take him out of the game, but if we can minimize him, we’ll have a shot.”
Spring Mountain uses more of a balanced attack. But the Golden Eagles’ strength comes from their defense, which has recorded seven shutouts.
“If you try to take away or minimize one player on this team, other guys will step up,” Masden said. “It’s probably one of the most complete teams I’ve had the pleasure of coaching. We’ve got four running backs that could start, or challenge to start, on any eight-man team in the state.”
Masden said he’s looking forward to the familiar matchup.
“We want to play Pahranagat in the state final,” he said. “We want that streak running, and we want to be the ones to take it. You can’t claim to be the best unless you beat the best team. They’ve certainly been the best for quite some time.
“All the pressure is on them. We’re just going to go out and play the most crisp and clean game we can. We’re hoping the third time’s a charm. We feel like we’re getting closer and closer to figuring out how to beat them.”
Contact reporter Ashton Ferguson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0430. Follow him on Twitter: @af_ferguson.