Pahranagat Valley football coach Ken Higbee said Tuesday he expects his team to be "playing our best football the last week of the season."
That could be difficult, especially after the Panthers scored a national eight-man record 128 points last week.
But Higbee sees vast area for improvement in his team’s pass defense, which allowed 490 yards and 10 touchdowns to Coleville (Calif.) on Saturday in a 128-74 Class 1A state semifinal win.
The Panthers will have the chance to finish with the more complete game Higbee seeks when they face defending state champion Tonopah in the 1A title game at noon Saturday at Arbor View High School.
"I think it was a surprise," Higbee said of the semifinal shootout. "A little bit that it was a record, and it was a disappointment that our defense gave up that many points."
Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association assistant director Donnie Nelson said the National Federation of State High School Associations has notified the NIAA that the 128 points indeed are a national eight-man record.
The previous mark was 118 scored by Northern Valley of Almena, Kan., in 1985.
The Panthers (11-0), the South’s No. 1 seed, entered the semifinal allowing an average of 12.5 points per game. Then they ran into a Coleville team that had scored 80 four times this season.
"The scary thing is, we could not stop them throwing the football," said Higbee, whose team recovered five onside kicks in the win. "It was a matter of survival."
Pahranagat Valley will face a more ground-oriented team in the Muckers, who run a potent shotgun option offense behind a physical line.
Tonopah (8-3), the South’s No. 2 seed, racked up 650 yards in a 71-30 win last week at North No. 1 Carlin.
The Muckers will try to avenge a 50-33 loss at Pahranagat Valley on Oct. 24, when they committed 14 penalties and five turnovers.
Tonopah coach Curt McElroy said his team is prepared if Pahranagat Valley tries the same onside-kick strategy it used against Coleville.
"If they give us the ball at midfield, we’re going to take advantage of it," he said. "Our kids are saying, ‘We hope they kick the onside kick.’ "
Scott Thibodeaux has helped the Muckers average more points this season (54.5) than last year’s Tonopah boys basketball team (39.8).
The senior quarterback has accounted for 2,306 yards and 38 touchdowns. He also has seven return TDs and has picked off six passes playing cornerback.
Panthers quarterback Taylor Poulsen has thrown for 31 TDs and rushed for 17. Running back Brady Whipple has 11 rushing and 15 receiving touchdowns.
Pahranagat Valley’s 128-point explosion brought the program from tiny Alamo rare national media attention.
The feat was documented in Internet blogs on USA Today, Yahoo! and MaxPreps, and Higbee has been fielding calls from astonished alumni all week.
But the 14th-year coach would much rather have a third state title in four years than any scoring record.
"It’s an accomplishment," Higbee said, "but the kids understand the real accomplishment is in winning the state championship."
Contact reporter Tristan Aird at taird@ reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203.NevadaPreps.comIn-depth high school sports coverage
HOW THEY SCOREDInteractive map of Pahranagat Valley’s 128-74 win over Coleville (Calif.).